Here’s what FOPL, OLA, SOLS, OLS-North and our members been doing in Ontario for the last three years:
1. We re-analyzed the official Ontario public library data collection data on a per capita data in order to make valid peer comparisons. You can see the report at:
2017 FOPL Statistics and Peer Analyses
|Public Library and First Nation Public Library Technology Needs in next two years from 2017
|Public Library and First Nation Public Library Technology Needs in next two years from 2017 Annual Survey
Our basic data measurements (limited by the data collected but we’ve gotten the government to improve what they collect!) fall into these buckets:
The data presented in these reports are in several forms and with varying levels of detail depending on
the detail needed for different views.
Variables and Dimensions
Now we will outline the variables and dimensions. This discussion of variables is brief and the reader is
cautioned to realize that in each case where the variable is described as a higher ratio or lower ratio is
ranked better that what is left unsaid is: “all other things being equal.” They are not and that is why we
have more than one variable to give you the context to understand your library and its peers as the data
The first dimension is SERVICE and it has four variables:
Collection units per capita. “Units” is defined broadly. This is a measure of how big the collections are
for the size of the libraries’ resident populations. Higher is better.
Employees per capita times 1,000. This measure tells us how big the staff is to service the
population. Higher is better. The calculation gives a small number and to make it easier to understand,
we multiplied by 1,000. It can be thought of as so many people for each 1,000 in the resident
Population per workstation. This measure tells us how many workstations the library has. By dividing
the population by the count of workstations, we have a number which indicates, how likely a library user
is to find an empty workstation. Here, a lower ratio is better. Consider: is it better to have 10,000 people
per workstation or 100?
Population per service point. Service points are broadly defined to include places where people will
have physical access to the library. They can include bookmobiles, branches, and deposit stations. Again,
a lower ratio is better. Is it better to have 10,000 users per service point or 100?
This dimension has three variables related to the actual use of the library.
Stock turnover is a traditional measure: how many times is each item (on average) checked out? Here
total annual circulations are divided by a count of circulating items held. Higher is generally better.
Circulations per capita is another well-known calculation. Annual circulations divided by resident
population. Higher is better.
Program attendance per registered borrower. How many of the libraries’ cardholders attend the
libraries’ programs. The reported number in the detailed tables is 100 times the raw calculation. Total
annual program attendance divided by the reported number of library cardholders. Higher is better.
This dimension is new to the world of library assessment and it was created to get a handle on an
important set of changes occurring in the library world: the modern library is not a passive organization
waiting patiently for people to appear but one increasingly looking for opportunities to meet its public
wherever they are and wherever they have information needs. The four measures in this dimension are
an attempt to measure how libraries are adapting.
Programs offered per capita. The higher ratio is better.
Registered borrowers per capita. What percentage of the libraries’ resident populations have library
cards? Higher is better but we have documented how this percentage has been declining in Ontario’s
libraries. Caledon Public Library is low to their peer group which is an opportunity and correlates to
Hours open per capita times 100. Hours open includes not just buildings but bookmobile and deposit
station hours. More hours open per person although as we know, a library’s electronic presence is open
for business at all hours. Higher is better.
Estimated Annual Visits per capita. This ratio is the result of a complex calculation. Visits are tracked
as “Typical Week” data so the data presumably re for one week. The population is an annual figure so
the visits were summed and then multiplied by 52 and that product divided by the resident population.
Visits are of three types: In person, electronic (to the libraries’ Websites,) and electronic (to the libraries’
social media sites.)
This dimension occasionally works against the others. Service is better with more staff, money, and
service points but more economical if these are balanced by care in allocating resources. It is always a
matter of balance and by looking at your peer libraries, you can see how they made the same kinds of
balancing decisions that your library must make.
Collection expenditures per circulation. Lower is better. That is, more circulations per dollar spent is
better than spending many dollars per circulation.
Estimated Visits per open hour. Visits, again, come from “Typical Week” data and given that these
figures and the open hour figure are both weekly figures, there is no need to do more than sum the
number of visits and divide by the number of open hours. Higher is better: more people visiting is better
than fewer people. Note that electronic visits are included and that these can occur when the library’s
buildings are not open.
Total Expenditures per estimated annual visit. Total operating expenditures of the libraries divided
by the annualized visit figure to give an imputed cost per visit. Lower is better. It is better to have more
visits per dollar spent.
The attempt here is future oriented.
Staff Training as a % of Total Operating Expenditures. This number is times 100 so these are the
percentage figures. Staff training in this day and time is important but with library budgets being
stretched, helping staff keep up with new developments by training or conference attendance is a
difficult thing. But: higher is better.
We also invested $800,000 in developing these data collection and analysis toolkits for indigenous, small, medium and large public libraries:
The Northern Libraries toolkit is also applicable more broadly:
Valuing Northern Libraries Toolkit
Click here to view the “Valuing Northern Libraries Tool Kit”
“Is your library board looking for a new way to communicate library value to your stakeholders?
Ontario Library Service – North (OLS – North) contracted NORDIK Institute to create a measurement tool to illustrate the value of libraries in rural, Northern, First Nation, and francophone communities. A steering committee consisting of the CEOs of the six pilot communities participated in identifying the measurement topics, the design and testing of the tool.
The Toolkit and Resources
This tool is designed to measure the value of public libraries and their role as community hubs, building capacity for healthy, resilient people and places, especially in rural, Northern, First Nation and francophone communities. The toolkit provides a step-by-step process to assess libraries’ social return on investment (SROI) within a holistic, cross-sectoral framework. The Social Return on Investment (SROI) is a term describing the social impact of a business or non-profit’s operations in dollar terms, relative to the investment required to create that impact and exclusive of its financial return to investors.
Based on a review of relevant literature, focus groups, consultation with steering committee members and site visits, NORDIK designed a measurement toolkit to encompass the many diverse and unique roles that public libraries play in the North as community hubs.
This framework identifies seven areas where libraries contribute to building individual, organizational, and community level capacity.
- Cultural Integrity & Regional Identity
- Social Inclusion
- Cognitive & Literacy Development
- Health & Wellness
- Engaged Citizens & Safer Communities
- Entertainment & Enjoyment
- Economic Development
An indicator is a quantifiable measure used to monitor progress or impact in a given area or sector. In collaboration with the pilot sites, three indicators were chosen that best reflect how libraries’ operations and expenditures contribute to each respective area. The same number of indicators is measured in each of the seven sectors for the purpose of demonstrating the equivalent value of each sector in the overall economic benefit and calculation of its Social Return on Investment.
While many of the services and activities of the libraries could arguably demonstrate benefits in multiple sectors assessed by the measurement tool, this study has relied on the preferences of the pilot sites to identify the placement of indicators most appropriate to each of the seven sectors. The indicators have been selected based on data that is collected by all libraries, or alternatively, can be easily collected during the ‘typical week’ usage survey.
Each library builds a unique mix of resources—collections, programming, services, etc. in response to community needs, enabling diverse people to improve their quality of life and to participate in the life of the community in meaningful ways. In many instances, libraries demonstrate leadership by promoting services that are otherwise non-existent, under developed or under serviced. The library value toolkit can be used in all of Ontario’s small and rural communities to demonstrate how the library contributes to individual, organizational, and community capacity.
SROI Indicator Template (the library value calculation spreadsheet)
The SROI Indicator Template will require some of the data submitted for the 2017 Annual Survey of Public Libraries, the Typical Week Survey, plus other commonly collected information.
Download the template and sample reports:
COMING SOON – The Valuing Northern Libraries Toolkit online course will be made available on LearnHQ for Ontario public libraries to access.
Other Library Value Projects
Here is a sampling of public library value projects conducted in the past decade:
Assessing the ECONOMIC IMPACT of Vancouver Island Regional Library on our Member Communities, 2016.
Building Burlington’s Prosperity: The Economic Impact of Burlington Public Library, 2015.
Ottawa Public Library Impact Report. 2015.
SSM Public Library Research Report: The Value of Sault Ste. Marie’s Public Library 2015
Kawartha Lakes Public Library Economic Impact Study 2014
So Much More: The Economic Impact of the Toronto Public Library on the City of Toronto 2014
Halifax Central Library An Economic Impact Assessment 2009
Enriching communities: The value of public libraries in NSW 2008
For a full list of the economic impact studies we’ve done in Ontario, check them out here:
The List: Canadian Public Library Impact Studies
We offer customer reports of peer analyses that match an individual library’s needs. That is summarized in the main report.
Lastly, we also compare ourselves on a national, US and international basis when data is available. Ontario libraries tend to come out very very well.
In the US you have a few great data sets and projects including IMLS, NCES, PLA, Project Outcomes, (ARL, and ACRL data) and you use our Canadian company Counting Opinions well across the country.