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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

How do libraries make out?

Is $1/square foot a fair amount of Category II (C2) funding for libraries?  Well, I can't really talk about "fair," since that's in the eye of the beholder, but let's compare the funding of a few libraries with the funding for the schools in the same area.  How will I decide which applicants to include in my study?  The same way I always do: I'll take what's easy to find.  My sample is selected because the library square footage popped up on Google.  I got the square footage numbers off the Internet, so I know they're true and didn't bother to verify them.  Also, I matched the school district to the library just based on name; I can't swear the service footprint is identical.  Where I noticed a small library (including bookmobiles), I boosted funding up to the $6,000 minimum, but I didn't do that for any schools (because the difference would have been negligible).  So the data below is a blurry keyhole view of the landscape.
Community Enrollment School $ Library $ Ratio
Holyoke, MA 5,316 $797,400 $40,000 19.9
Chandler, AZ 42,876 $6,431,400 $124,500 51.7
Denver, CO 70,717 $10,607,550 $752,137 14.1
Gilpin County, CO 434 $65,100 $12,000 5.4
Taylor County, FL 3,040 $456,000 $7,158 63.7
Broward County, FL 222,527 $33,379,050 $1,447,408 23.1

The last column shows the multiple of funding that the school district gets.  What is a fair multiple?  Well, you're not likely to think that both 14:1 and 51:1 are both fair, so everyone will find that unfair in at least a couple of cases.  So no matter what you think is fair, not every library will get a fair amount of funding.

Taking a step back, the real funding problem for libraries is not going to be the $1/sq.ft. formula.  Most libraries don't apply for the E-Rate, and even fewer are going to apply for C2 (since it requires CIPA compliance).

It gets even worse: now that they're phasing out voice service, a single-site library that's not CIPA-compliant is eligible for $0 in E-Rate funding.  The only service left in the program that does not require CIPA compliance is digital transmission service (DTS) purchased from a telecommunications carrier.  Single-site applicants generally don't need DTS, so they'll get bupkus.

Take that, rural libraries.


  1. I perused a couple of documents showing square feet per capita:!/vizhome/2013CTLibraryStatisticsAll/LibraryUseStats

    They show a wide range of values for square feet per capita, generally from about 0.2 to 2, with some further outliers.

    Here's a comparison of state averages (Table 29):
    The low is 0.395; the high is 2.178.
    If the goal was to distribute the funding evenly to all library patrons, it doesn't seem like the $1/sq.ft. method really does the job. On the other hand, I think in most libraries, the need for access points is more likely to be determined by the size of the space to be covered than by the number of patrons, so maybe using building size is fair.

  2. The Urban Library Council has filed a comment to to FCC (, supported by many other libraries, supporting an increase to $4/sq.ft. Or $150 per average daily visitor.

  3. It sounds like the final order will have $2.30/sq.ft., so libraries will get 2.3 times as much as I put in the table above.