Wednesday, May 2, 2007

PL 16/07: Statistics in Stellenbosch

Filed under: Uncategorized — plinius @ 6:21 am

IFLA 2007 in South Africa looms ahstellenboschmount.jpgead – and I look forward to go.

The organizers of the 7th Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services , which will be an IFLA satellite conference in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, have accepted my paper. This means I can apply for a travel grant from Oslo University College.

The theme

The paper deals with the productivity (output versus input) of public libraries and is based on Norwegian library statistics.

The relationship between productivity and size is an important question in library development. In Norway, as in other Nordic countries, smaller branch libraries are closing down – often against strong local protests.

The recent Norwegian White Paper on libraries (2005) argues that larger units are needed to serve the new generation of users: urban, web proficient and highly educated. The White Paper argues for a minimum staff of six to eight persons – which corresponds to a service population of 15 to 20 thousand persons.

But is it true that larger libraries more productive than smaller ones? To what extent can the public library sector benefit from economies of scale? And how should productivity be measured? To answer these questions, we turn to public library statistics.


We have explored the quantitative relationship between input and output by plotting the 400+ municipal libraries in Norway on scatter diagrams – with resource on the X- and service on the Y-axis.

The data show that the service indicator (Loans + Visits) per capita (which is used in Finland) combined with the resource indicatator (Wages + Media budget) per capita (which is used in Norway), give a clearer picture of the relationship between input and output than the more widely used Loans per Person year.

The diagrams are more linear and the correlations substantially higher.

Related work

This quantitative approach is similar to current research based on intensive use of statistics – for instance the work of Christie Koontzin Florida, of Thierry Giappiconi (Fresnes, France), the German library index BIX (Ulla Wimmer), British social impact studies (promoted by MLA) and other studies from LISU in Great Britain.



  1. Hello,
    The result or your survey that service indicator (Loans + Visits) per capita used in Finland combined with the resource indicator (Wages + Media budget) used in Norway (?) equals to formula used in Finnish public libraries to describe economical effectiveness: In Finland, (Expenditure on staff + Expenditure on library materials) / (Library visits + Loans, total) is counted.
    I agree with you that it does give a picture of the relationship between input and output, but the indicator has some constraints, and I have in my lectures and discussions elicited some criticism about it.
    Namely, this indicator is strongly dependent of size of the library. It is dangerous if this is used e.g. comparing the effectiveness of library with the national average. I have counted that 20 biggest municipal libraries in Finland actually define the “good mean value” of the country, and the 20 smallest libraries are far away from that level. The result of the 20 biggest libraries did not deviate from the national average, and even counting the 20 biggest and 20 smallest together showed an average of those 40 libraries that did not deviate from the national average.

    Comment by Markku Laitinen — Wednesday, March 24, 2010 @ 10:43 am

  2. […] we work together in the Statistics and Evaluation Section – has just posted an intereresting comment on library productivity, based on a paper I presented at the Northumbria Meeting in South Africa […]

    Pingback by PL 10/10: Size and productivity « Plinius — Thursday, March 25, 2010 @ 11:18 am

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