March 22, 2018

LJ Index 2013: The Star Libraries

New stars

A major strength of the annual Star Library ratings is that while some public libraries have various kinds of built-in advantages that tend to keep them on the list [see the LJ Index FAQ,], in fact, a substantial proportion of the Star Libraries are new to this recognition each year. Of 2013’s 263 Star Libraries, 67 (25.5 percent) were not Star Libraries in 2012. Notably, this year’s percentage of new Star Libraries is higher than it has been in four of the last five years (those four years, ranging from 19.4 percent in fall 2009 to 24.4 percent in 2010). So, generally, the trend over time is increasing annually the percentage of new Star Libraries. Attaining the status of a new Star Library is also becoming more competitive, as, by design, Star Libraries as a percentage of all eligible public libraries has remained static at 3.5 percent—the same ratio as in fall 2009.

Another noteworthy trend concerns the distribution of star-eligible public libraries by spending group: while there is an occasional exceptional year, generally, the peer groups spending less than $100,000 annually have become smaller year by year, while the groups spending $100,000 or more are becoming larger. In other words, over time, more and more libraries are surpassing the $50,000 and $100,000 annual spending thresholds (see Table 1).

The new 2013 Star Libraries are located throughout the nation, in all four major regions and in 27 states.

New York tops the list of states with the most new Star Libraries. These include one new 4-Star and five new 3-Star libraries. Notably, these new Star Libraries include ones with some of the highest and lowest expenditures in the state and the nation:

  • Huntington Public Library ($5M–$9.9M, )
  • Jericho Public Library ($1M–$4.9M, )
  • Manlius Library ($1M–$4.9M, )
  • Sea Cliff Village Library ($200K–$399.9K, )
  • Southworth Library Association, Dryden ($100K–$199.9K, )
  • Bolton Free Library, Bolton Landing ($50K–$99.9K, )

Iowa and Ohio tie for the second largest number of new Star Libraries this year—five each. Iowa’s honorees include three new 4-Star Libraries in the $50K–$99.9K spending peer group—Dr. Grace O. Doane (Alden), Hubbard, and Wellsburg—and two new 3-Star Libraries in the $10K–$49.9K group—Dexter and Elgin. Ohio’s honorees include Loudonville, a new 4-Star Library in the $400K–$999.9K group; a new Star Library at each level in the $200K–$399.9K group—Fairport Harbor, ; St. Paris, ; and Leetonia, —and Bettsville, a new 4-Star Library in the $100K–$199.9K group.

Three states tied for the third largest number of new Star Libraries in 2013—four each—Colorado, Massachusetts, and Nebraska. Colorado’s new honorees include a new 4-Star Library in the top-spending group ($30M+)—the capital city’s Denver Public Library—two new 3-Star Libraries in lower-spending groups (Ridgway Library District, $200K–$499.9K, and Limon Public Library, $50K–$99.9K); and a new 5-Star Library in the lowest-spending group ($10K–$49.9K)—the joint Swink School/Public Library. New Massachusetts Star Libraries include a new 5-Star honoree—Provincetown Public Library—a new 4-Star winner—Stockbridge Library Association—and two new 3-Star Libraries—Snow Library ($400K–$999.9K) and Dennis Memorial Library Association ($100K–$199.9K). Nebraska’s stars include a new 3-Star honoree in the $50K–$99.9K spending group—Oakland Public Library—two new 5-Star honorees in the $10K–$49.9K group—Bloomfield Public Library and Genoa Public Library; and an additional new 3-Star honoree in that same group—Creighton Public Library.

Five states tied for the fourth largest number of new Star Libraries in 2013—three each. Those states are Alaska, Illinois, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota. Eight states each had two new Star Libraries: Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. And eight more states each had a single new Star Library: California, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, and Utah. New Star honorees in these states are identified in Table A.

The 27 states with new Star Libraries in 2013 represent all four major regions of the United States:

  • Five Northeastern states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania)
  • Four Southern states (Florida, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia)
  • Eleven Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin)
  • Seven Western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah)

Brightest stars

Of the 67 new Star Libraries in 2013, 16 (almost 25 percent) spend $5 million or more annually.

Three of these new Star Libraries spend $30 million or more annually:

  • Denver Public Library,
  • Saint Louis County Library,
  • Salt Lake County Library System,

Eight new Star Libraries spend $10 million–$29.9 million annually. New 4-Star libraries in this group include Kenton County Public Library (Ft. Mitchell, KY—that state’s first Star Library ever); Capital Area District Library (Lansing, MI); Somerset County Library (Bridgewater, NJ); and Henrico County Public Library (VA). New 3-Star libraries in this group include Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library (KS); Ramsey County Library (Shoreview, MN); Eugene Public Library (OR); and Loudoun County Public Library (Leesburg, VA).

Among libraries spending $5 million–$9.9 million annually, there are five new Star Libraries. New 5-Star libraries are Westport Public Library (CT) and Ela Area Public Library District (Lake Zurich, IL). The new 4-Star library in this group is La Crosse Public Library (WI). The group’s new 3-Star libraries are two additional Illinois honorees: Mount Prospect Public Library and Vernon Area Public Library District (Lincolnshire).

New constellations

Changes in a library’s fiscal fortunes may affect the group of libraries to which it is compared in the LJ Index, but they do not necessarily increase or decrease the odds of it receiving a given number of stars. Ten libraries earned Star Library status in both 2012 and 2013, despite changing spending groups. There is no predicting how the direction of such a change will impact a library’s star status. Of these ten libraries, two gained and four lost stars as a result of changing peer groups.

Of the five libraries that moved to higher spending groups between 2012 and 2013, one gained a star, while two lost stars.

  • Red Hook Public Library (NY): from $100K–$199.9K to $200K–$399.9K,
  • Monticello Township Library (IL): from $200K–$399.9K to $400K–$999.9K,
  • Macsherry Library (Alexandria Bay, NY): from $50K–$99.9K to $100K–$199.9K,

Surprisingly, of the five libraries that moved to lower spending groups between 2012 and 2013, the same pattern occurred: one gained a star, while two lost stars.

  • Rogersville Public Library (AL): from $100K–$299.9K to $50K–$99.9K,
  • Parker Public Library (AZ): from $200K–$99.9K to $100K–$299.9K,
  • Mt. Pleasant Public Library (UT): from $100K–$199.9K to $50K–$99.9K,

The four remaining libraries maintained the same number of stars despite spending enough, more or less, to change peer groups.

  • Mattituck-Laurel Library (Mattituck, NY): from $400K–$999.9K to $1M–$4.9M,
  • Seward Community Library (AK): from $400K–$999.9K to $200K–$399.9K,
  • Cordova District Library (IL): from $200K–$399.9K to $100K–$199.9K,
  • Centerville Community Library (SD): from $10K–$49.9K to $50K–$99.9K,

So, whether a library is a Star Library or not is not merely a matter of resources; it depends on what one does with them as well as the fortunes of other libraries in one’s spending group. What is most remarkable about these libraries that changed peer groups, however, is not whether they gained or lost stars, but that they remained Star Libraries despite changing peer groups. For a closer look at the Star Libraries that moved from one expenditure group to another from 2012 to 2013, see Table B.

Stars brighten, stars dim

Another strength of the three-level rating system (5-, 4-, and 3-Star Libraries) is that where a library rates among the Star Libraries is also quite dynamic from year to year. Just because a library earns five stars one year is no guarantee that it will do so the following year. Of the 196 public libraries that earned Star Library status in both the 2012 and the 2013 editions, 30 increased and 34 decreased their number of stars. So, among the repeat Star Libraries, fully one-third (33 percent) experienced a significant change in status. For a closer look at how an individual library’s number of stars has increased or decreased from 2012 to 2013, see Table C.

Conspicuous among the Star Libraries that gained stars are two that moved from
to status: Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library ($30M+) and Kansas City Public Library (MO) ($10M–$29.9M).

Fallen stars

That a library earns stars one year is no guarantee that it will earn any the following year. Of last year’s 262 Star Libraries, 66 (25 percent) earned no stars this year. Of those 66 libraries, ten lost star status simply because they did not report all four of the required statistics—visits, circulation, Internet computer use, and program attendance—to receive a score on the LJ Index of Public Library Service, on which the star ratings are based. Of the remaining 56 former Star Libraries, only nine (16 percent) moved to a different spending peer group between 2012 and 2013—six actually moved to a higher spending group and only three to a lower one. This means that 47 (84 percent) of the former Star Libraries that remained “contenders” for the honor experienced real changes in circumstance that explain their disappearance from the Star Libraries list this year—or, alternatively, at least one of their peer libraries excelled substantially compared to last year. For a list of libraries that lost Star Library status in 2013, see Table D.

» Next page: “Beyond the Stars”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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. Lisa Scroggins says:

    I am library director at Claud H. Gilmer Memorial Library in Rocksprings, Texas. We are a rurally isolated community, and work hard at providing outstanding library services for our patrons. We have been a star rated library every year, and have earned five stars the last three years (including this newest report.) WOOO HOOOO!! We are thrilled!!! I do have one question: How do you select libraries to feature?
    We would LOVE to be featured in your magazine!! Give me a call…. 830-683-8130.

  2. Lisa,
    Congratulations on your library’s string of Star Library ratings, especially the 5-Star streak. Generally, our choices of libraries to feature are driven by specific results, who we can contact before our deadline, and … chance!
    Knowing of your interest, you can count on hearing from us in the future. We love volunteers!
    We are especially keen to learn what libraries do with their Star Library ratings and LJ Index scores. We hope it encourages taking a closer look at the data for one’s own library as well as one’s peers.
    Looking forward to discussing all this with you,

  3. Douglas Miller says:

    The links for Tables A-D are not working.

    • Douglas and others,
      The folks at LJ are receiving your comments about some links not working for you. At this time, the best they can tell, this problem seems to be limited to users of the Firefox browser. If you are using a different browser, would you please let us know which one you are using and what, if any, error message you are receiving?

    • Randy Heller (LJ Senior Web Developer) says:

      Hi Douglas. I’m not seeing any issues with the links to those tables on any web browser that I’ve tested. And I’ve checked the coding of the links themselves, and nothing seems amiss. Can you describe the error you’re receiving? Does this link work for you? …

  4. Thank you so much for our new five-star status! We are thrilled and grateful.
    Marcia Logan
    Westport Library Communications Coordinator
    Westport, CT
    (we are, by the way, The Westport Library–not Westport Public Library)

  5. Kathy Harsany says:

    Library Journal,

    I was pleased to learn that the library from the town where I grew up, and which nurtured my love of reading, earned four stars. Congratulations, Lakewood Public Library (Ohio).
    Now I live in Greenwich, CT (5 stars), where I must be among the most frequent patrons and I often visit the Westport, CT (5 stars) library because I travel for work (teacher of the visually impaired, i.e. braille) . Both of these libraries make it worth the price of living in Fairfield County.

    And now that I’m looking for a good place to retire, the existence of a good library is at the top of my list. So keep the lists coming!!! They are important resource for the general public as well as librarians.