Best Practice Libraries Research

Using HAPLR 2.0 metrics, we help libraries compare themselves to comparable libraries throughout the U.S.   Using that data, we sort libraries into a variety of comparable classes.  For example, we identify all libraries in the U.S. serving 25.000 to 50,000 residents that are close to major metropolitan centers and are organized as non-profit libraries.  Another example would be that of city-county libraries on the West Coast serving under 10,000 residents.  Our dataset allows for a great amount of flexibility in the comparisons chosen.

Our reports compare by broad categories peers.  Then we identify libraries that are “best in class” for closer analysis.  We identify libraries with extraordinarily high performance metrics.  We examine both current and historical data for these libraries.  These “Best Practice Libraries” can provide clues on how to achieve high performance.  We ask their administrative staff what they believe contributed to their high performance.  Examples are listed below.

Porter County Public Library, Indiana

In this project we sought to compare Porter County to “wider unit libraries.”  Since Porter County Library is an Indiana district library, we narrowed the search to libraries that are organized as city-county, county, library district, school district areas, or multi-jurisdictional. That excluded municipal, non-profit, and other organizational types.  We used a 25 year trend and compared 929 libraries serving 50,000 to 250,000 population.

After an extensive search, we narrowed the field to just a dozen of the over 9,300 libraries in the U.S.  Based on further examination of the metrics, we chose three of that dozen “Best Practice Libraries” for closer scrutiny.  They were: Calvert Library, Maryland, Lakewood Public Library, Ohio and Carmel-Clay Public Library, Indiana.  See Section 3 of the Porter County Metrics Report for a summary of the Best Practice libraries.

Library website:  http://pcpls.org/

Altoona Public Library, Iowa

The intended purpose of the report was to provide perspective for evaluating how the Altoona Public Library compares to similar libraries throughout the country. The report moves from the historical to the more general and then to the very specific. We started by looking at 20 year trends in library data for over 800 of the nation’s city libraries that are of a comparable size to Altoona. Next we narrowed the field of observation to look at the average input and output statistics for broad groupings. This allowed us to compare things such as staffing to broad but more comparable groupings of libraries. That allowed us to begin to see patterns of strengths and weaknesses. Finally, we sorted the field even more closely, narrowing it to just 16 of those 814 city libraries. Here we were specifically looking for libraries that have numbers that appear better than Altoona’s. The goal was to find libraries that may have lessons from which library planners can learn. It is very likely that any or all of these 16 libraries in 9 counties will have advice to give and stories to tell to Altoona Public Library’s planners.

Library website: http://www.altoona.lib.ia.us/

Hingham Public Library.

A particularly good example of the results of a questionnaire to a Best Practice library is that of Hingham Public Library in Massachusetts.  Report on Hingham Public Library for Altoona Project 2017:  Questions Questions and Answers from Best Practices Library – Hingham Public Library Director Linda Harper (Plymouth County MA)

Library website: http://hinghamlibrary.org/

In 2017, Hennen Library Consulting and Consensus conducted research on Altoona Public Library in Iowa.  During that process, we narrowed the field using metric data.  Starting with over 9,000 public libraries, we winnowed the field down to 17 Best Practice Libraries.  This is described in a Metrics Report (Altoona Metrics Report 2017),  The intent was to find libraries that might be able to provide clues about “Best Practices” for library services as Altoona developed a long-range plan for 2018 to 2020.  From those 17 we selected 4 to interview.  In the process we discovered that Hingham Public Library (MA) has an exceptionally complete and current long-range plan.  Library Director Linda Harper answered the many questions we had quite fully.  We asked specific questions of two types:

  • metrics data we presented from the past 20 years demonstrating exceptional library service compared to Hingham’s peers
  • specific questions on some of the objectives that the library developed in its 2016 to 2020 Plan that seemed pertinent to Altoona’s planning efforts.

Note that neither Hennen Library Consulting nor Consensus had anything to do with developing these plans.  We found them because we identified Hingham by using HAPLR 2.0 metrics to find Best Practice Libraries in the 10,000 to 25,000 population category of U.S. libraries. We were very impressed with these plans.  Hingham Public Library’s plans are available at the links below: