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How Do You Choose Which Libraries to Close?

Creative Commons Flickr Photo by Tito Perez

Creative Commons Flickr Photo by Tito Perez

In our last blog post, the iMapLibraries team pointed out that one of the greatest risks of library closures is that select communities may become isolated from library services and resources. These communities may include poor people, elderly, children and ethnic minority groups who have more limited transportation options in reaching a library farther away.

In this post, we analyze the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of the people who are likely being served by each of the 22 Miami Dade County library branches that were recently chosen to be closed, and we compare their characteristics with the branches that are to remain open. To make sure that the trends identified in the data are most likely correct, three market area estimation techniques were used (i.e., the one-mile radius, the two-mile radius, and the gravity model) unless otherwise noted. If a trend was noted in only one or two of the market estimation methods, that data was considered inconclusive. Results are based upon 2010 U.S. Census data.

Differences between Miami Dade libraries that will be closed as compared to libraries that will remain open countywide are:
1) The closed libraries serve a higher percentage of Hispanics than the libraries that will remain open.
2) Closed libraries have a lower percentage of English-speaking households and a higher percentage of Spanish-speaking households, especially among those between the ages of 5 to 64.
3) Closed libraries have a higher percentage of households speaking an Indo- European language with a higher degree of linguistic isolation than libraries that will remain open. (Linguistic isolation reflects those who speak a non-English language at home, and who also report that they do not speak English very well.)
4) The average median income, average per capita income, and average housing value for the Census block groups within the library’s market area is noticeably lower for those libraries that will be closed as compared to the libraries that will remain open.

The value of identifying the above differences is in creating the opportunity to solve issues of inequities if and when possible and prior to closures. For managers and planners there is also value in having a tool for comparing and identifying these types of issues with any proposed plans for library openings, closures or relocations within communities.

While this post has discussed the use of planning tools and data with the example of looking at proposed library closures in Miami-Dade County, such tools and data can be used in many other library planning scenarios for library managers all over the country (e.g., helping plan library programs, services, and facilities, addressing library service gaps, and meeting local community needs). One of our previous blog posts described some of the impacts the full closure of 22 library branches may have on some local county residents. These planning issues have major local importance not only due to impacts on neighborhoods and communities, but also because public libraries in the U.S. are funded at 98% average from local coffers.

Our next blog posting will look at the issue of equity and fairness on an individual library community level as opposed to the birds-eye view that this post has taken. In the meantime, you may be interested to download the library branch data for the 22 libraries to be closed in Miami Dade County, or to take a look at your own local library branch market areas with our prototype planning tool, and visit our iMapLibraries site for more resources and information: http://www.imaplibraries.org

– Dean Jue (DJue@admin.fsu.edu), Christie Koontz (Christie.Koontz@cci.fsu.edu), Lorri Mon (lmon@fsu.edu) and Laura Spears at Florida State University, for iMapLibraries

Join iMapLibraries at ALA 2013!

The iMapLibraries team is presenting at American Library Association Annual Conference 2013 in Chicago at Hilton Chicago’s Astoria Room, 8:30-10am on Saturday, June 29 – join us to discuss putting libraries on the map (http://www.imaplibraries.org) and using data to show how libraries help people.  Hope to see you there!

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(l-r) Dean Jue, Lorri Mon and Christie Koontz, iMapLibraries

 

Beyond Books: Libraries Helping the Community

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How do public libraries help communities?  Here are some real-world examples of the wide-ranging ways libraries help people:

Supporting teachers – many libraries offer a special teacher’s library card with extended benefits, plus additional help such as Miami Dade Public Library’s JumpStart Storytime Kit for Pre-K and Kindergarten programs, King County Library’s KidReach Bookboxes with 80 books every 50 kids, or Multnomah Library’s Buckets of Books with 24-30 books on a topic plus a teacher’s guide, as well as help with customized book collections and webliographies; 

Supporting students and helping homeschoolers – beyond all the ways we know libraries already help students, Multnomah County Library has a homeschooling liaison to help homeschooling parents; live online homework tutoring is a special extra support offered on many library web sites – as seen for example at Houston Public Library and Los Angeles Public Library;

Helping jobseekers – libraries provide classes, workshops, resources, and individual assistance to job seekers such as drop-in job club and career coaching sessions at New York Public Library, and Pierce County Library’s “library in a bag briefcases” of job seeking and small business resources.  Some libraries such as Fond du Lac Public Library run computer labs and resource centers for job seekers — Memphis Public Library even operates a JobLinc mobile career/job center bus bringing the help to the job seekers;

Supporting small business – some libraries offer special programs supporting small businesses – for example Grand Rapids Public Library operates a small business research center, and at North Richland Hills Public Library you can schedule individualized small business counseling sessions;

Supporting nonprofits – at Fayetteville Public Library, a Nonprofit Resource Center helps individuals and nonprofit organizations identify potential grant funding sources, while Monroe County Public Library’s  Nonprofit Central offers one-on-one counseling for nonprofits;

Helping seniors – many libraries such as Pikes Peak Library offer special resources and classes for seniors; often libraries will deliver items to homebound seniors, as with Jasper County Library’s “walking books” program; Forsyth Public Library among others provides “BiFolkal Kits” designed to spur reminscence and reflection for seniors;

Helping disabled users – libraries often have accessible computers and programs to help disabled users; at Eugene Public Library, a Braille embosser can print documents in Braille, and Nashville Public Library has special library services for the deaf and hard of hearing;

Providing bilingual and ESL services – Forsyth Public Library operates a Spanish Bookmobile called the “Bibliobus”; Jasper County Library is one of many that teach English as a Second Language and offer bilingual computing stations; Fresno Public Library has staff fluent in Spanish, Russian, Armenian, Punjabi, French, Hindi, Arabic and a variety of Asian dialects and operates a Spanish/English bookmobile service called AprendoVan;

Supporting the local arts community – many libraries offer display and performance spaces for local writers and artists, such as the Art and Display space at Flathead County Library; also the Marin Free Library showcases local Marin poets in a digital archive;

Teaching technology skills  – many libraries teach classes and workshops on computers and technology skills. King County Library System operates a mobile Techlab bus for teaching computer classes “on the go,” and Westport Public Library is among those offering a Makerspace with a 3-D printer.

That’s just a small sampling of how libraries are helping people in local communities.  How does your library help – what special programs and services are offered at your library? 

– Lorri Mon, Associate Professor at Florida State University, for iMapLibraries [Showcase the programs and services at your library – you can put your library on the map for classes and workshops, senior services, Spanish services and special spaces such as homework centers, computer labs, meeting rooms etc. at iMapLibraries]