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The Numbers

May 9, 2005

The library board wanted to see numbers. Cold, hard numbers. So, I gathered them. But they turned out to be warm, fuzzy numbers. I’ll share some with you.

They come by way of the Library Research Service of the Colorado State Library. One funding measure tracked by the LRS is “Materials expenditures per capita,” and ours was $10.38 in 2003 (2004 comparisons aren’t done yet).

This number may not mean much to you by itself. But in our size category (population 5,000- 9,999), we were highest of 15 libraries. We’re also one of the highest in the state. You can feel warm and fuzzy, because this is a direct result of community support.

Another measure is “Materials expenditures as a percent of operating expenditures,” and it’s a number we try to keep high. In our category, we were second highest out of 15 libraries with a percentage of 23.9%. This is good. Highest was 24.4%.

For “Staff expenditures as a percent of operating expenditures,” we were second lowest at 52%. I think this is also good.

Here’s a big one: “Local income per capita.” We were second highest in our category at $45.19 per capita, but statewide across libraries of all sizes, there are many libraries around this number.

Here’s a good service measure: “Evening and weekend hours as a percent of hours open.” We top the list at 44%; next was at 37.7%. As one patron said: “We’re paying for it, it might as well be open.” Exactly. We’re open 70 hours per week, which is one of the highest in the state.

We were second in our category for “Visits per capita” (14.17) and fourth in “Circulation per capita” (10.57). We were second in magazine and newspaper subscriptions per capita. Perhaps we’ll move to first after adding more titles this year.

We’ve crept into the top half with 4.06 “Volumes held per capita.” That number will climb as we continue to build the collection. In fact, we’re nicely set to do that now with the recent addition of more compact shelving in our basement annex. We can grow by another 12,000 volumes.

A fourth of our collection will eventually be in the annex, requiring staff retrieval. We won’t grow indiscriminately. We’ll be choosy about what we keep and what we move to the basement annex, but we have the option of keeping more of the rich collection we’ve been building over the last eight years.

When I say “we” I mean you. The needs and desires of library users have shaped the growth of the collection. I think it’s satisfying for staff to build a deeper collection and shepherd it along. But it takes time. Even after eight years of concerted effort and steadily increasing materials budgets, we still come across a book now and then that makes us scratch our heads, “Why do we still have that?”

Of course, many old books are keepers. We purchase out-of-print books on occasion and keep many that are given to us.

(We recently received about 50 books on Western, Colorado, and local history from the extensive library of the late Dr. Fred Paquette; his family asked the estate’s executor to let us choose some titles for the library. More on those another time.)

But, back to the cold, hard facts: The numbers discussed above largely reflect on you. They are measures of use and support, and they are very good numbers. I hope you feel warm and fuzzy. Thank you.

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