or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

New England Star Libraries

   March 3rd, 2009 Brian Herzog

Star Libraries mapLibrary Journal recently released its list of America's Star Libraries. The rating were based on data collected in 2006, and, on the whole, was pretty interesting.

Jessamyn brought up some good points about the relevancy and awkwardness of it, though beyond her post and a cursory reading of the LJ article, at first I didn't pay much attention (other than to see how my library ranked in the Google spreadsheet version).

But then a coworker of mine pointed something out which got me to take a more in-depth look. She said:

Did anyone else think it was weird that LJ used per capita figures to rate a library and 8 of the 11 commended [Massachusetts] libraries were vacation destinations?

Her point was that per-capita numbers are unduly inflated in vacation spots, as tourists boost the stats when they come in to check email, catch a storytime or author talk on a rainy day, or check out beach-reads on guest cards.

I am a visual person (and like maps), so I plotted the New England star libraries in Google Maps. It turns out that an easy majority (but not all) can be considered vacation spots - near either the ocean or ski areas. I'm not trying to detract from these libraries, or to imply that they're not playing an important role by serving (my) vacationing patrons. It just seems that the data used for these ratings is a bit skewed. So double congratulations to landlocked flatlanders like Dover and Newton - you guys must definitely be doing something right.

The authors did touch on this, and the article's various online components also offer useful information. But if a library wants to improve its rating, the way to do that seems to be to pick up and relocate to either the coast or the mountains.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,