March 17, 2018

LJ Index 2013 Spotlights: New and Improved Stars

Joining the Constellation: New 4- and 5-Star Libraries

Denver Public Library, a new 4-Star Library
Responding to this news, City Librarian Shirley Amore said, “We are honored to be recognized as a 4-Star Library by Library Journal, especially since the rankings were based on 2011 data, a time when we were burdened with significantly reduced budgets, allowing us to be open only 32 hours a week at most of our 25 locations.
“In 2013, we have been able to increase our service hours by 40 percent due to community support of a local ballot measure. Library attendance, computer use, event participation, and circulation are all on the rise, and we hope to join the illustrious group of 5-Star libraries in the near future.”

Henrico County Public Library, a New 4-Star Library
According to Director Jerry McKenna, “Henrico County Public Library, VA, thrives due to support from and partnerships with local government and the community. In 2011, the Glen Allen Branch Library reopened after a complete renovation, which expanded it from 12,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet.
“Henrico County’s 400th anniversary [was in 2011], and the library was active in the celebration, including an All Henrico Reads event featuring David Baldacci and creating the Notable Henricoans Database of over 200 noteworthy Henrico citizens, which continues as an online resource on the library’s website. While citizens enjoy this new resource, students use it heavily as well, fulfilling new assignments about local history from their teachers.
“Computer access continued to increase in popularity, especially as many began cutting back on personal expenses at home.”

Ela Area Public Library District, a New 5-Star Library
Matt Womack, executive director of Ela Area Public Library District, IL, reported that “2011 was a terrific year for our library. We made significant investments in our RFID, materials handling, and self-checkout systems. Not only did the new system resolve a pesky customer service issue, it also increased self-checkouts by ten percent almost immediately. We provided several unique programs and exhibits as well, including a terrific Harry Potter’s Word exhibit that we borrowed from the National Institutes of Health. This exhibit helped increase program attendance by more than 33 percent over the previous year. We implemented a music download service and also increased contributions to our ebook collections, boosting activity for downloads. Together, these projects created a lot of excitement in the community, and our metrics soared as a result.”

From 4-star to 5-star

Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library
According to Director Kim Fender, “2011 was the first year of our new strategic plan. When developing this plan, we took a different approach, involving hundreds of staff in idea workshops to suggest actions that would help us achieve our objectives and soliciting input from our cardholders as well. As a result of staff and customer input, we increased the number of copies of high-demand titles we purchased, added cards for children and teens that have no fines and don’t require parental permission, and fully embraced digital content. Circulation, visits, program attendance and computer use all increased to record levels.”

Kansas City Public Library
“The Kansas City Public Library, MO, is proud and gratified to be named a 5-Star Library by Library Journal,” according to Director Crosby Kemper III. “In recent years, our programming, funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and others, has created a sense of intellectual and civic excitement in our community and brought tens of thousands of people into the library. Our outreach programs, Books To Go and ­Stories To Go programs, expanded dramatically as we developed our Building a Community of Readers initiative, and we are reaching more children, teens, and adults than ever before. Great spaces, great librarians, great programs help build a great city.”

» Next page: “The More Things Change”

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Keith Curry Lance & Ray Lyons About Keith Curry Lance & Ray Lyons

Keith Curry Lance ( is an independent consultant based in suburban Denver. He also consults with the Colorado-based RSL Research Group. In both capacities, he conducts research on libraries of all types for state library agencies, state library associations, and other library-related organizations. For more information, visit
Ray Lyons ( is an independent consultant and statistical programmer in Cleveland. His articles on library statistics and assessment have also appeared in Public Library Quarterly, Public Libraries, and Evidence Based Library and Information Practice. He blogs on library statistics and assessment at

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  1. Henrico County Public Libraries have embarked, over these past several years, on a hyper-aggressive “weeding” policy which involves throwing “old-looking” (i.e., library-bound) books, or books that do not circulate at the rate of the most popular titles, into the nearest available Dumpster. This is done irrespective of category distinctions; in other words, serious books of political science or theory are required to circulate at a rate approximately similar to that of popular fiction titles in order to “earn their keep” and justify remaining on the shelves. Librarians claim that this is done to make room for new books, but entire shelves, and even entire rows of shelves, sit empty, and have sat empty for months – even, in some cases, years. The stated goal of this unconscionable policy is to demonstrate that Henrico County’s Library System is “popular” as opposed to “scholarly”; one librarian even remarked to this patron, with a straight face (alas), that the ultimate goal was to “compete” with bookstores. At least that was an honest answer; more often than not, librarians fob patrons off by saying that the specific book they are seeking probably sustained “water damage.” (No record is kept in the catalogue of “weeded” books, not even to show that they’ve been “weeded”; it’s as if they were never held at all.) This “Four-Star” distinction plainly has nothing to do with the strength of the collection, which used to be one of the best in the state of Virginia, but is now an embarrassment. Again, books are being thrown away by the hundreds – not sold to benefit Friends of the Library or the general fund, but thrown in the garbage. This is tantamount to burning books, since the end effect for patrons is the same. Misappropriation of public funds and censorship are not hallmarks of a “Four-Star” library!

    • Thank you, Beth, for your comments. Since the LJ Index Star awards exclusively reflect quantity of services delivered, they provide only the most general assessment of library performance. Counting services like circulation and visits does not (and cannot) directly measure crucial aspects of library operations, such as how well well-managed the library is, how well its collection policy serves the community (though high usage suggests a reasonable match), the quality of services provided, the library’s financial status, the adequacy of the physical facilities, and so on. For more information see items 4, 5, 7, 9, and 10 of the LJ Index FAQ:

      In particular, the LJ Index rating process does not address which community values and needs deserve the most emphasis by the library. Nor does an LJ Index Star award in any way certify that a library has defined its mission and goals appropriately. This definition, as well as an assessment of the performance dimensions listed above, need to be explored through a dialog with the community initiated by the library, as well as by local audits and evaluations conducted in and by that community.

      We hope you are able to address your concerns directly with Henrico County Public Library.

      Best wishes,

      Ray Lyons & Keith Curry Lance