March 22, 2018

LJ Index 2015: The Star Libraries

New stars

This year, 207 of 2014’s Star Libraries retain their Star status, though their numbers of Stars may have changed. There are also 54 new or returning Star Libraries—ones that were not Stars in last year’s ratings.

Among libraries spending $30 million or more, there are two new three-Star winners: Toledo–Lucas County Public Library and Indianapolis–Marion County Public Library.

Among libraries spending $10 million–$29.9 million, there are three new three-Star winners: Birmingham Public Library, AL; Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; and Stark County District Library, Canton, OH.

Among libraries spending $5 million–$9.9 million, there are six new Star winners, including the five-Star Westport Public Library, CT, and two new four-Star winners: Huntington Public Library, NY, and La Crosse Public Library, WI.

Among libraries spending $1 million–$4.9 million, there are four new Star Libraries, led by new four-Star Homewood Public Library, AL.

Among libraries spending $400,000–$999,999, there are five new Star Libraries, led by two new four-Star winners: Garden City Public Library, ID, and Foley Public Library, AL.

Among libraries spending $200,000–$399,999, there are eight new Star Libraries, led by four-Star winners Dorcas Carey Public Library, Carey, OH, and three Massachusetts winners: Truro Public Library (North Truro), Meekins Public Library (Williamsburg), and Cotuit Library.

Among libraries spending $100,000–$199,999, there are five new three-Star Libraries, including Carrollton Public Library, MO; Walton and Tipton Township Public Library, Walton, IN; Dennis Memorial Library Association, MA; Cornwall Library Association, CT; and Kinsley Public Library, KS.

Among libraries spending $50,000–$99,999, there are a dozen new Star Libraries, led by two new five-Star winners: Estancia Public Library, NM, and Sand Point Community/School Library, AK.

Among libraries spending $10,000–$49,999, there are eight new Star Libraries, led by five-Star winner Velva Public and School Library, ND.

While the 54 new Star Libraries in 2015 represent the lowest number of additions since the Index first appeared in 2009, there was still plenty of movement among the three-, four-, and five-Star categories in 2015.


More, fewer, and lost stars

Each year, some libraries that remain in the same expenditure categories earn additional Stars compared to the previous edition. In this 2015 edition, 58 such Star Libraries moved among the ratings. Of those 58, 27 Star winners moved up from three Stars to four, from four Stars to five, and—in one rare case—from three Stars to five: Osterville Public Library, MA ($400K–$999.9K).

This year, 15 of 2014’s three-Star Libraries became four-Star Libraries. They are Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN ($10K–$29.9K); Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, KS ($10K–$29.9K); Rochester Public Library, NY ($10M–$29.9M); Patchogue-Medford Library, NY ($5M–$9.9M); New Carlisle Public Library, OH ($400K–$999.9K); Manlius Library, NY ($1M–$4.9M); Mattituck-Laurel Library, Mattituck, NY ($1M–$4.9M), Beresford Public Library, SD ($100K–$199.9K); Bertha Voyer Memorial Library, Honey Grove, TX ($100K–$199.9K), Craig Public Library, AK ($100K–$199.9K), Edgerton Public Library, MN ($50K–$99.9K), Hubbard Public Library, IA ($50K–$99.9K); Fred Macaron Library, Springer, NM ($10K–$49.9K); Real County Public Library, Leakey, TX ($10K–$49.9K); and Hughes Springs Area Public Library, TX ($10K–$49.9K).

Of 2014’s four-Star Libraries, ten became five-Star Libraries this year. They are Cleveland Public Library ($30M+); Mercer County Library, Lawrenceville, NJ ($10M–$29.9M); Haines Borough Public Library, AK ($400K–$999.9K); ­Hartington Public Library, NE ($100K–$199.9K); Rock Creek Public Library, OH ($100K–$199.9K); Tivoli Free Library, NY ($100K–$199.9K); Philmont Public Library, NY ($50K–$99.9K); Boyden Public Library, IA ($10K–$49.9K); Tularosa Public Library, NM ($10K–$49.9K); and Lettie W. Jensen Public Library, Amherst, WI ($10K–$49.9K).

The remaining 21 of the 58 Star Libraries that changed Star ratings have fewer Stars in 2015 than they did in 2014. Nine of 2014’s five-Star Libraries won four Stars this year. Three of 2014’s five-Star Libraries won three Stars this year. And ten of 2014’s four-Star Libraries won three Stars this year.

Fifty-one of 2014’s Star ­Libraries lost their Star status in 2015.

ljx151101webStarLibsTbl2Changing constellations

Eleven libraries retained Star Library status despite moving from a lower to a higher expenditure category and, in one case, the reverse.

East Baton Rouge Parish Library, LA, moved from the $10.0 million–$29.9 million group to the $30 million-plus group and went from being a three-Star Library to a five-Star one.

Two libraries spending $200,000–$999,999 retained Star Library status, despite moving up from the $100,000–$199,999 group. Lopez Island Library District, WA, retained its four-Star status, while Skidompha Public Library, Damariscotta, ME, moved from five- to four-Star status.

Four libraries moved from the $100,000–$199,999 spending group to the $200,000–$399,999 one. Pueblo of Isleta Public Library, Albuquerque, NM, moved from four- to five-Star status. Delta Community Library, Delta Junction, AK, and Central City Public Library, NE, retained their five-Star status. And Williamsport–Washington Township Public Library, IN, retained its four-Star status.

Three libraries moved from the $50,000–$99,999 spending group to the $100,000–$199,999 group. Two—Pelham Library, MA, and Rogersville Public Library, AL—moved from five to four Stars, and one—MacSherry Library, Alexandria Bay, NY—moved from four Stars to three.

One five-Star Library—Claud H. Gilmer Memorial Library, Rocksprings, TX—retained its status, despite moving down from $100,000–$199,999 to $50,000–$99,999 in annual spending.

2016: year of change

In addition to adding e-circulation to the mix [see “E-Circ Not Ready for Prime Time“] , several other major changes in the LJ Index’s design and structure are being considered seriously for the 2016 edition. Because e-circulation and even total circulation and reference to some extent no longer necessarily imply a physical visit to a library facility, the assumptions underlying the Index must change. With those alterations, there will need to be changes in the statistical rationale for the Index. A likely result of those changes will be a reconsideration of the long-standing exclusion of reference transactions per capita from the LJ Index. So it is likely that next year’s edition will see two additions, e-circulation per capita and reference transactions per capita. Notably, as with e-circulation, virtual reference activities do not imply library visits. Unlike e-circulation, however, virtual reference trans­actions are not counted separately.

While we will begin looking at other new data to be reported for the first time next year—in 2016, the first data on Wi-Fi access usage—we assume the issues holding up the addition of e-circulation this year will also apply to that new output measure. So Wi-Fi access usage per capita can be expected to join the Index in its tenth anniversary edition in 2017.

Keep in touch

While we monitor online media coverage of the LJ Index and its Star Library ratings, we would appreciate hearing from you if you choose to publicize your Star rating. We would especially appreciate hearing from you if you opt to make your own comparison of your library’s LJ Index score with some group of self-selected peers [see “Do-It-Yourself Projects with LJ Index Data“]. We are always looking for good replicable examples of such work to share with others and may be able to help spotlight your good work in this area.

Finally, remember that we welcome your input about the LJ Index and the Star Library ratings. If you have comments about some of the changes that might be made next year, let us know. If you are doing something innovative with your library’s Star Library rating or the LJ Index or its underlying data, please share it with us or in other venues, so others can learn from your work. One of the underlying beliefs that inspires our work on this project is that nothing leads to more and better data faster than everyone sticking their necks out to collect new data elements—in this case, on new service outputs—and then looking at the results in the bright light of day. Public library data will never be perfect or perfectly comparable. Yet through projects like this one, there are many opportunities to improve the data on which decisions about public libraries are made.

» Next page: “All the Stars, State by State”

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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