Federation of Ontario Public Libraries

Ontario Public Library Statistics

There is a lot of data here!

Federation of Ontario Public Libraries
Ontario Public Library Operating Data 2005-2014
Overview, Primer on Library Statistics and Collected Tables
Robert E. Molyneux, MSLS, PhD, Statistician
Stephen Abram, MLS, FSLA, Executive Director, FOPL

June 2016 – For the full report download this (79 page PDF)

FOPL_2014_data_report

Table of Contents:

Preliminary Analysis of Ontario Public Library Data with a Sampler of Results

Introduction and Analysis
Primer on Library Data
Population and Circulation at Ontario Public Libraries, 2005-2014
Table 1: Summary Characteristics of Ontario Public Libraries
Charts Based on Table 1 Summary Data
Tables 2, 3, and 4 Introduction
Table 2: Collection Expenditures and Collection Expenditures
as a percent of Total Operating Expenditures
Table 3: Programs Offered and Program Attendance
Table 4: Key Ratios for Ontario Public Libraries, 2014
Rank Order Tables
Table 5: Rank Order Table: Circulations per capita, by bands
Table 6: Rank Order Table: Circulations per active library cardholder
Table 7: Rank Order Table: Total Expenditures per capita
Table 8: Rank Order Table: Total Expenditures per Active Cardholder
Table 9: Introduction
Table 9: Holdings of Electronic Resources, All Ontario Public Libraries, 2005-
2014
Some Thoughts on Measuring Non-traditional Public Library Services

Introduction
Stephen Abram, MLS, Executive Director

This document is a watershed moment for public libraries in Ontario.
For the first time in many years we now have up-to-date access to our sector’s data provided by our
libraries as part of the provincial data collection.

This report covers the highlights of these data as well as documenting some current trends through
2014.

This editorial introduction is an overview of our process at FOPL. The Federation of Ontario Public
Libraries has been investing over the last 24 months in statistics for Ontario’s public library systems.

To this end we have:
· Participated in CLA task force on national statistics
· Hosted 3 iSchool symposia on future measurements for libraries
· Lobbied for open data for Ontario public libraries (win!)
· Published a longitudinal analysis of Ministry data collection for 2001-2010 and 2001-2013.
· Published Market Probe opinion polls for 2015 (building on 2001, 2006, 2010 polls)
· Hosted and recorded several webinars about Statistics and Measurements in public libraries.

In 2016, our goals were:
1. To continue the discussion of relevance and timeliness of Ontario public library comparative
statistics.
2. Publish an updated longitudinal analysis of the data collected from us by the Ministry for 2001-
2014.
3. Start the development of an index to compare libraries in Ontario on 21st Century strategic
benchmarks that align with the role of libraries beyond just circulation and gate-count.

These were done as we committed to you.

We are very pleased to be working again with library stats expert, Robert Molyneux, MSLS, PhD, for
his excellent analytical skills and perspectives in developing our reports and his contributions to this
discussion paper.

It is our hope that this paper and our statistical analyses will serve as an important launching point for
broader discussion in our community on what WE NEED with respect to statistical data, provincial
benchmark measurements, and historical context for our annual strategic planning reviews and new
strategic plan development.

Combined with the completion of our 2015 Market Probe Canada Public Opinion Poll on Ontarians
attitudes and Usage of Ontario’s Public Libraries, we have updated the FOPL public opinion polls done
in 2000, 2006, and 2010. Each of these polls has provided insights into our operations and how we
remain successful at fulfilling our public mandates.

I am excited that our analyses show that public libraries are at two tipping points. Traditional library
measurements peaked or plateaued in 2010. Modern library measurements that include our
emphasis on programs and digital usage show that we are on a new arc and digital usage appears to
be exceeding in-person usage for the first time in 2015. It is truly an exciting time for our important
and value-laden sector.

FOPL has been very active these past three years. The membership investments in research,
marketing and advocacy on a collaborative basis are bearing fruit at costs that would be unaffordable
to individual library systems. The return on investment for your membership in FOPL has never been
stronger! We can report significant progress in all three Federation of Ontario Public Libraries strategic
objectives in 2016: Research and Development, Marketing, and Advocacy.

This discussion paper educates you in the background in our ‘new’ measurement and communication
opportunities as they apply to libraries and how they can be used for analysis, ranking and
comparisons of Ontario public library performance from 2001-2014. Credit is due to our Ontario
Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport for jumping on the open-data trend and making the raw data
that public libraries have contributed since 1998 available for further analysis and usage, and we thank
them for their efforts. The Ministry has provided some funding in 2015 in addition to FOPL funds to
this project to update the data, and to make some comparisons to the public libraries in US states and
Canadian provinces. This is great and our sector’s data is now fairly current for the first time in many
years.

I believe that that these projects project provides strong value for public libraries from the data our
sector has provided for many years and underpins communication of our value that show the Ministry
and the public the strong impact of public libraries from their long-term investment in our libraries.

We have a grand plan!

With special funding from the Libraries 2020 project FOPL engaged a consultant to study the
branding, communication and marketing status of Ontario Public Libraries. We have received the
Phase 1, 2, and Phase 3 reports and have distributed a final report to SOLS/OLS-North and our FOPL
members. In 2016 we are continuing this work in developing an over-arching tagline that we have
tested in English and French with Ontario residents. This will lead to a province-wide marketing
campaign with a clear call-to-action in which you will be asked to contribute and participate. Watch for
this launch soon.

We are building our community’s dreams about a major marketing push province-wide for public
libraries in Ontario to promote our value and impact. How do we complement promoting our branches,
collections and programs and local marketing with a collaborative push? Can we raise awareness,
library usage, and the number of cardholders of public libraries in Ontario? How do we turn these
dreams into a reality?

In 2014, we asked ourselves, “What do we need to know?” We need to know a lot before we make an
investment in a province-wide marketing campaign and we have made great progress. For the
branding project we:
1. Did a census of public library e-presences (websites, social media and social networking).
This may be a critical channel for marketing libraries across our province.
2. Collected public library taglines from their websites. The word cloud below shows how we
represented ourselves in 2014.
3. Reviewed the research on major public library “value” branding campaigns in Canada and
the U.S.
4. Held focus groups and interviews with key internal and external stakeholders including
librarians, library staff, library board members and municipal administrators.

wordcloudFOPL

This Wordcloud shows the key terms from public library taglines (larger font size indicates that this
word is used in more taglines at Ontario public libraries. In 2016, we should have more pieces of the
stats pie that we need to plan some initiatives around marketing and advocating for public libraries and
our value and impact – one of your goals expressed in the Libraries 2020 Vision (and indeed our latest Libraries 2025 Summit). To this end we will have much of the research and information we need to
plan for future needs. We will have:
· Longitudinal Statistics Data on Ontario public library performance (2001-2014)
· 2015 Data on our marketing channels, market positioning, and preparedness for a ‘push’
· Insights from stakeholders in libraries, boards and municipalities.
· A 2015 public opinion poll of Ontarians attitudes towards public libraries and how they’ve
changed from our 2000, 2006, and 2010 polls.

We are better prepared than ever to do local system strategic planning as well as engage in province-wide collaborative strategies. It’s an exciting effort and we’re getting there. We’re trying to be strategic, plan well and provide you with the information you need to plan locally in your community. We’re here to support you.

Analysis: An Introduction to Ontario Statistics

Robert Molyneux, PhD

As Stephen indicated, the purpose of this document is to present the results of a preliminary
analysis of Ontario public libraries using the data from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and
Sport. The goal is twofold: to present these results of this analysis in order both provide an
initial assessment of Ontario’s public libraries and through these results to solicit comments
and suggestions to improve and focus future analysis.

The various tables we present here are a sample of the work we have done but rather than
inflict the complete—and likely daunting—array tables of numbers on the reader, we hope
this sampler is a useful introduction. These tables provide an indication of the state of
Ontario’s public libraries and provide examples of techniques which can be applied in other
ways to advance the cause of libraries and aid FOPL in its work of improving Ontario’s public
libraries. If you are new to the ways of library data, we have again included the Primer, which
may be a helpful introduction to the vagaries of library data and methods customarily used to
examine libraries using their data. It begins on Page 7. Following the Primer are sets of tables
and charts. The first three tables have data from the Ontario public libraries by year, followed
by eight related charts, and then four tables report data from 2014 with libraries ranked by a
select sample of variables.

The Data

The Ministry has compiled and published a series of data on the province’s public libraries
since 1999. The data are published in two formats: Portable Document Format (PDF) by year
[These are only available on request. FOPL has the 2014 PDF series on its website, FOPL.ca]
and “comma-separated values” (CSV) by year. The PDFs for each year are organized by
bands of libraries organized by the number of resident population and these bands are
further divided by seven separate pages by categories. Each year’s reports are in varying
numbers of documents with 72 being common on later years. These are suitable for printing
and used for simple analysis by librarians. Publishing public library data by resident
population served has a long pedigree and is the commonest way to provide evidence to
compare like libraries. It is a recognized procedure in the difficult search for the “apples to
apples” comparisons that bedevil library analysis. These annual reports permit analysis of
like libraries for any one year but do not permit easy analysis of all libraries or for more than
one year or for analyzing libraries which are similar by other measures than resident
population. General analysis of all libraries is quite difficult using these files.
The CSV-formatted files permit the data to be brought into a spreadsheet program readily
and each year’s file has all the data for that year. Thus, analysis of more than each population
band is possible and by combining data for more than one year, trends can be observed
within the limits of spreadsheets. These annual data exist for 1999-2014. This set of data are those used for this report and most of the tables which follow have data for the years 2005-
2014 or for 2014 alone.

This data series is unusually well organized for a series of library data. Although, the 1999
data are different from the 2000+ data because that year has many more variables, by 2001, the
collection criteria were established and the variables each year were collected in a consistent
fashion. In addition, the libraries reporting are reasonably consistent. There is a key variable
and this is an important aspect of these data. The key variable an alphanumeric key to each of
the libraries and it is consistent across the series. In spite of name changes and the like, the
key variable is the same. The consistency and a key are two big things the Ministry got right
and this well-designed infrastructure is both rare in the library data world and is an aid to
analysis. That said, there are many data points in this series and the tapestry of Ontario’s
public libraries is a complex one and often fits in the data compilers’ pigeonholes awkwardly.
Hence, the analyst must proceed with caution.

The entire set of data has been recompiled from the annual CSV files into a longitudinal file
from 2000-2014 in a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet has 5,740 rows (each row = data from one
library) and 315 columns (variables). A number of libraries reported each year but many did
not and a similar observation can be made about variables: a number are reported each year
but not all are. Part of the documentation for this spreadsheet includes information on which
variables are reported which years and also which libraries report in which years. With so
much data, we could produce a dauntingly large report but our goal here is to present the
major variables and to give a picture of the state of Ontario’s public libraries. We provide a
sampler of methods of analysis of library data to those ends.

The Analysis Presented Here

The analysis rests largely on the tables and charts. As a result, unfortunately, it will be
necessary to go back and forth between the text and the tables.
These tables are organized by several methods. As mentioned above, Tables 1-3 present
summary data of related variables for the libraries for the years 2005-2014 as a means of
looking at trends. They are found after the Primer beginning with a discussion of the tables
on page 14. The Primer follows this section beginning on page 7. There are also tables with
breakdowns of this summary data into subsets which are discussed below. Tables 4-8 contain
data from the 311 libraries reporting in 2014. One presents a set of key ratios of all these
libraries and four are sorted by how these
do local system strategic planning as well as engage in province-wide collaborative strategies. It’s an
exciting effort and we’re getting there. We’re trying to be strategic, plan well and provide you with the
information you need to plan locally in your community. We’re here to support you.

those used for this report and most of the tables which follow have data for the years 2005-
2014 or for 2014 alone.

This data series is unusually well organized for a series of library data. Although, the 1999
data are different from the 2000+ data because that year has many more variables, by 2001, the
collection criteria were established and the variables each year were collected in a consistent
fashion. In addition, the libraries reporting are reasonably consistent. There is a key variable
and this is an important aspect of these data. The key variable an alphanumeric key to each of
the libraries and it is consistent across the series. In spite of name changes and the like, the
key variable is the same. The consistency and a key are two big things the Ministry got right
and this well-designed infrastructure is both rare in the library data world and is an aid to
analysis. That said, there are many data points in this series and the tapestry of Ontario’s
public libraries is a complex one and often fits in the data compilers’ pigeonholes awkwardly.
Hence, the analyst must proceed with caution.
The entire set of data has been recompiled from the annual CSV files into a longitudinal file
from 2000-2014 in a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet has 5,740 rows (each row = data from one
library) and 315 columns (variables). A number of libraries reported each year but many did
not and a similar observation can be made about variables: a number are reported each year
but not all are. Part of the documentation for this spreadsheet includes information on which
variables are reported which years and also which libraries report in which years. With so
much data, we could produce a dauntingly large report but our goal here is to present the
major variables and to give a picture of the state of Ontario’s public libraries. We provide a
sampler of methods of analysis of library data to those ends.

Stephen Abram

Executive Director

Federation of Ontario Public Libraries

sabram@fopl.ca

416-395-0746