Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
ISSN 1534-0937
Libraries · Policy · Technology · Media

Selection from Cites & Insights 12, Number 8: September 2012


Public Library Closures: 2010 Update

When I researched apparent public library closures, first as reported in the 2008 and 2009 IMLS tables (Cites & Insights April 2012), then (with Will Kurt’s assistance) for 1998 through 2009 (Cites & Insights May 2012), I was pleased to find that very few public libraries actually closed and stayed closed.

But I was nervous about FY2010, which for most of the country should have been the year that the recession hit the hardest (in terms of tax revenue and other issues). Would there be a wave of public library closures in FY2010?

The Institute for Museum and Library Studies (IMLS) released the FY2010 public library databases near the end of July 2012. I’m pleased to say that the answer is No. In all, eight libraries (not branches) and agencies reported closure (and one reported temporary closure), while there were 18 new libraries and agencies—and eleven libraries and agencies not previously reported.

What about the eight closed libraries and agencies? Here’s a quick look at each of them and what I was able to find in cursory research.

Mattawamkeag Public Library, Mattawamkeag, Maine

This library had a service area population of 790 in FY2009—but it did not report statistics for that year. Imputed circulation was only 208. No further information found.

Sargentville Library Association, Sedgwick, Maine

In FY2009, this library potentially served 1,021 people—but was only open 100 hours (two hours per week) and showed a total circulation of 50. It has an active website, currently showing four hours per week summer hours. Its status is unclear.

Faribault County Library, Blue Earth, Minnesota

This library system served 7,844 people in FY2009 with 1,504 open hours and 7,875 circulation. In this case, the system actually served smaller community “station libraries” in Faribault County but had no library building of its own, which turns out to violate Minnesota law. While the county library has closed, nobody (apparently) lost library service: The county library budget is now used so that the city libraries can provide materials and staffing for the smaller station libraries. Thus, there’s no effective closure here—no library outlets actually closed.

Flasher Public Library, Flasher, North Dakota

Flasher Public Library served 285 people in FY2009 and circulated 6,727 items in 416 open hours. Total staff at the time was 0.2FTE—that is, 8 hours per week. The 2010 census shows 235 people in Flasher. This may be a case where the community could no longer afford even part-time staff.

Ruskin Public Library, Ruskin, Nebraska

This library potentially served 195 people in FY2009—but reported no paid staff, although it circulated 1,861 items in 260 open hours. The population is down to 123 in the 2010 census. No further information.

Stark Public Library, Stark, New Hampshire

In FY2009, this library potentially served 516 people and was open nearly 1,000 hours—but reported no circulation and had no paid staff. This may be another case where a volunteer-run library or reading room simply doesn’t qualify for inclusion in IMLS.

Berks County Public Libraries, Leesport, Pennsylvania

In 2009, this system served 39,430 people and circulated 50,553 items in 4,355 hours. There’s an active website for Berks County Public Libraries that indicates that it’s a system of 23 independent libraries. Looking more closely, the 2009 figures are for two bookmobiles. Budget cuts eliminated those bookmobiles, presumably also eliminating separate reporting for the county system.

Jefferson County Library, Beaumont, Texas

This system served 33,628 people and had 42,463 circulation in 1,064 hours in FY2009. In this case, an August 13, 2010 story in Library Journal spells it out. The county library, consisting of a “small walk-in library” and a bookmobile, and serving unincorporated areas of the county (Beaumont has its own library system), was closed “for good” because the county couldn’t afford the $300,000 budget. The story says interlocal agreements might allow continued library service to those who live outside city limits. (Beaumont sells non-resident library cards at $25 or $40 per year.)

Summing Up

Yes, money issues did result in some closures, mostly affecting very small communities and people in unincorporated areas of counties. Effectively, there were seven actual library/bookmobile closures (or conversions to volunteer status) and one purely administrative change. Nontrivial losses, especially for the rural areas of Jefferson County and possibly Berks County, but not a wave of closures.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 12, Number 8, Whole # 152, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced irregularly by Walt Crawford.

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