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Library Operating Expenditures: A Selected Annotated Bibliography

ALA Library Fact Sheet Number 4

This fact sheet describes sources of information on library operating expenditures in public, academic, and school libraries.  Information about special libraries may be obtained from the Special Libraries Association, 1700 18th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009; telephone 202-234-4700; fax 202-265-9317 (http://www.sla.org; e-mail resources@sla.org ).

All of the sources mentioned in this fact sheet are revised periodically, most often annually. This fact sheet describes the most recent version available at this writing. The reader is advised to look for revisions of each source as they may appear.


PUBLIC LIBRARIES

Public libraries receive most of their revenue from the unit of local government of which they are a part. As of 2004, 52.9% of U.S. public libraries were part of a municipal government, and 10.0% were part of a county government (with the remainder reporting various other situations of legal basis). In that same year, the percentage breakdown for sources of revenue (or operating income) were 81.5% local, 10.0% state, 0.5% federal, and 8.0% other (these numbers are from the Public Libraries in the United States: Fiscal Year 2004 publication explained below).

  • The most recent national statistics on the over 9000 public libraries in the U.S. can be found in a report by the Library Statistics Program of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES http://nces.ed.gov, which comes out of the U.S. Department of Education) that was published in August of 2006, Public Libraries in the United States: Fiscal Year 2004 (2006). Operating expenditures for the nation, for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, are shown in the following categories: staff, collection, and other.

  • The Public Library Data Service (PLDS) Statistical Report 2006 is the latest edition of the annual survey of public libraries sponsored by the Public Library Association (PLA, a division of ALA). With responses from a random sampling of nearly 1,000 public libraries across the country, including most of those serving populations of 100,000 or more, this report gives statistics per library on operating expenditures categories (salaries, benefits, materials), sources of income, and expenditures per capita. See the PLA Publications page for ordering information. Send any questions (but not orders) to pla@ala.org.

  • Public library materials expenditure data for approximately half of the public libraries in the U.S. is shown annually in the Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac. National and state totals are shown for the following categories of expenditure: books, other print materials, periodicals, manuscripts & archives, audiovisual materials, microforms, machine-readable materials, preservation, and database fees. These figures come from data submitted to the American Library Directory. Not all libraries report all items.

    Information on ordering these products can be found at:
    Information Today, Inc. Online Store
    E-Mail: custserv@infotoday.com
    Telephone (toll-free): 1-800-300-9868
    Telephone: 1-609-654-6266
    Fax: 1-609-654-4309
    Mailing address: Information Today, Inc., Attn: Customer Service, 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford NJ 08055-8750

  • Another view of operating expenditures is available from the annual American Public Library Circulation and Expenditures Index figures compiled by the Library Research Center of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The project coordinator reports these figures in an annual article published in ALA's monthly member magazine, American Libraries. The November 2006 issue included "Public Library Circulation and Expenditures Increase in 2005," which was based on responses from a random sample of 283 public libraries chosen to be representative of all public libraries serving populations of over 25,000. Previous years' index figures are also included. Expenditure percentages are shown for the categories of salaries, materials, and "other." Dollar values are shown for expenditures per capita, expenditures per item circulated, and library material expenditures per capita.


COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES

National statistical reports on academic libraries do not show sources of revenue. For the most part, an academic library's revenues come from the parent institution.

  • The most recent national statistics on college and university libraries were collected by the National Center for Education Statistics and published in Academic Libraries: 2004 in November of 2006. Operating expenditures for the nearly 4,000 academic libraries across the nation are shown in the following categories: salaries & wages; collections and information resources (both electronic and audiovisual), including document delivery/interlibrary loan and preservation; equipment, including computer hardware and software; and electronic services, including document digitization, assistive technology, and e-mail/Web reference. Data is sorted by highest level of degree offered, by Carnegie category, by size of full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment, and by control (private vs. public institutions).

  • Expenditures data for over 100 of the largest academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada is available from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) in their annual publication, ARL Statistics. The following categories of operating expenditures are shown: monographs, current serials, other library materials, total library materials, contract binding, salaries & wages, and other operating expenditures. See the ARL Publications Ordering page to purchase a copy. Or access the latest report, the ARL Statistics 2004-05: A Compilation of Statistics from the One Hundred and Twenty-Three Members of the Association of Research Libraries (Compiled And Edited by Martha Kyrillidou and Mark Young) as an Adobe Reader PDF file. Send any questions to pubs@arl.org.

  • The ACRL 2005 Academic Library Trends and Statistics is the latest edition of the annual survey of academic libraries compiled by the Library Research Center of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign for the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL, a division of ALA). Expenditures data from over 1,100 academic libraries is reported, with expenditures numbers for library materials (including monographs/books, serials, and binding), salaries and wages, and more separated from electronic expenditures numbers (computer files, electronic serials, computer hardware and software, and document delivery/interlibrary loan). See the ACRL Academic Library Statistics page for more details, including ordering information and free access to current and past summary statistics.

  • The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac contains the same data for academic library expenditures as for public library expenditures. National and state totals are shown for the following categories of expenditure: books, other print materials, periodicals, manuscripts & archives, audiovisual materials, microforms, machine-readable materials, preservation, and database fees. These figures come from data submitted to the American Library Directory. Not all libraries report all items.


SCHOOL LIBRARIES

Like academic libraries, school library media centers rely primarily on their parent institution for financial support.

  • The results of the most recent national sample survey of elementary and secondary school libraries, Schools and Staffing Survey, 1999-2000: Overview of the Data for Public, Private, Public Charter, and Bureau of Indian Affairs Elementary and Secondary Schools (2002), was published by the National Center for Education Statistics in May of 2002. Included are expenditures for the following categories: books, CD-ROM, computer software, video materials, other AV materials, and serial subscriptions. Data are broken down in tables by types of expenditure per pupil and by public and private schools. This data is further divided by grade level and enrollment.

  • Since 1983 School Library Journal has published a series of biennial reports summarizing expenditures for public and private school library resources in the United States based on a survey of its subscribers. The latest such report, The SLJ Spending Survey, was compiled (as usual) by Drs. Marilyn L. Miller and Marilyn Shontz, and appeared in print in the October 2003 issue (pages 52-59). The report included such data as expenditures per school, expenditures per pupil, expenditures on library materials (books, periodicals, microform, AV materials, and software), technology (both software and hardware), and salaries.

    In 2005, School Library Journal began the SLJ Technology Survey by Sally Brewer and Peggy Milam. Some school expenditure numbers were reported in part two of the 2005 survey, in the article, SLJ’s Tech Survey Part Two: Big plans, little money leave school librarians with tough choices. Budget figures and expenditures did appear in the latest version, SLJ’s Technology Survey 2006, which was also compiled by Sally Brewer and Peggy Milam.

  • NOTE: School Library Journal requires site registration for access to some of the online full-text versions of articles appearing in the print edition; a 30-day free trial is available on the site. Access to all online articles is automatically granted to print subscribers, so if you find that you cannot access one or more of these articles, check to see if your local library already has a print subscription and can access the articles online for you.


NOTE: Previous versions of this fact sheet can be accessed via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine using the original URL <http://www.ala.org/library/fact4.html>. And that URL web address still works as a "shortcut" link to this web page.


December 2006


For more information on this or other fact sheets, including copies of previous versions, contact the ALA Library Reference Desk by telephone: 800-545-2433, extension 2153; fax: 312-280-3255; e-mail: library@ala.org; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795.



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