Benchmark: Library Metrics and Trends, is the newest tool for data-driven planning and advocacy in public libraries. Launched in October 2021, it provides libraries with data visualizations that allow them to compare their inputs and outputs to peer and nationwide data.
With Benchmark you can:
- Access data and visualizations that facilitate peer comparisons. Benchmark features a range of visualizations of new PLA survey data, historic PLDS data, IMLS Public Libraries Survey, and data from the Census Bureau. The data dashboards and comparison tools are robust, interactive, and user-friendly.
- Complete PLA surveys. New annual surveys from PLA on a rotating roster of topics replace the Public Library Data Service (PLDS) surveys, reducing past redundancy in data collection and capturing information that complements the annual Public Libraries Survey (PLS).
How It Works
Peer comparisons, or benchmarking, can help libraries better understand their performance and can support everyday decision making, such as establishing baselines and identifying opportunities to improve service.
All charts show data points for your library, a peer group, and all US public libraries by default. Subscribers can filter the data by library characteristics (locale, region, service area population, legal basis), community characteristics (percent persons of color and percent college-educated), and by peer group and year. Additional interactive features include tooltips and the ability to view tables and export data. As PLA conducts new surveys, additional data and visualizations will be added. Watch the tutorial videos and the recording of a Benchmark 101 webinar to learn more.
All public libraries have free access that allows them to:
- View a summary page with selected metrics and visualizations for the library, its primary peer group, and all libraries nationwide.
- See the library’s responses submitted to past PLA and PLDS surveys.
- View and complete open surveys.
- Manage the library’s contact information and contact preferences to ensure your library receives invitations to participate in future surveys.
- Access resources about the data, the surveys, and how to use Benchmark.
Subscribers have access to additional features, including:
- A robust set of interactive data dashboards with filters and 100+ unique visualizations based on PLA, PLDS, IMLS, and census data.
- A custom report builder that includes historic metrics (back to 2002).
- The ability to create custom peer groups for benchmarking.
Login at librarybenchmark.org! If it is your first time logging in and you need assistance with the login ID and password for your library or organization, please contact email@example.com. Please note that the website will look and function best on a laptop or desktop screen.
Subscribe today! The types of subscriptions offered are:
For public libraries, state library agencies, or LIS programs. For public libraries, subscriptions and surveys are handled at the administrative entity level; an administrative entity may include multiple branch libraries.
Features: See how your library compares to your peers and all libraries nationwide with the interactive data dashboards and custom reports. Tailor your benchmarking with custom peer groups and interactive data filters.
Cost: $400 per year. 10% discounts available for ALA organizational members and for survey participants* (for a combined 20% off!).
Consortium / State Library Agency / Group
A consortium, state library agency, regional system, or other group may purchase one subscription that provides access for multiple libraries at a discounted rate. Learn more about Benchmark for groups by registering for a free webinar on December 11.
Features: All group member libraries get access to the regular subscriber features. In addition, group administrators get access to a special admin account to manage their libraries’ contact information and survey responses. A 1-hour introductory webinar is included for new group subscribers.
Cost: $3000 for up to 10 libraries, and $200 for each additional library (per year). 10% discount available for ALA organizational members.
For companies, vendors, or other organizations.
Features: Access aggregate data in the survey metrics dashboard and custom reports, view resources, and create custom peer groups.
Cost: $1,800 per year. 10% discount available for ALA organizational members.
Individual Consultant / Researcher
A short-term subscription for a single consultant or researcher.
Features: Access aggregate data in the survey metrics dashboard and custom reports, and create custom peer groups. For consultants working with a single library we recommend that the library purchase a subscription and provide access to it. This type of consultant subscription offers short-term access to aggregate data only.
Cost: $99 for 30 days. Credit card payments only.
*Survey participant discounts are available for libraries that complete the PLA annual topical survey.
Please note that organizations that are not libraries will not see library-level data. As subscribers, they will still be able to create custom peer groups to access aggregate data.
Read more about choosing the right subscription type (PDF) and watch the tutorial videos to preview the features available to subscribers. More information about Benchmark is available in the Frequently Asked Questions (PDF). If you have other questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch a free on-demand webinars, "Benchmark 101: Become a Data-Informed Library" (Nov. 2023) or "Introducing Benchmark: Library Metrics and Trends" (Nov. 2021).
Library groups/states: register now for a free webinar, "Data Tools for Library Groups and States" on Monday, December 11, 2023.
PLA has been investing in tools and resources (like Project Outcome and the Benchmark Briefings) that help libraries understand and use data to drive decision making. Data analysis can help libraries plan, make informed decisions, tell the story of their impact, and advocate for themselves.
In 2018, PLA analyzed their existing data tools and discovered a notable decline in the use of the Public Library Data Service (PLDS), which annually administered surveys and published the results of a rotating slate of library measures. PLA solicited feedback from subscribers and held two virtual town halls to hear how a new tool could better support their needs. Library staff reported that they wanted less redundancy in data collection, better peer comparison data, improved data training related to community indicators, and a user-friendly interface for analysis and reporting. In 2019, after much discussion, research, and planning, PLA and the Measurement, Evaluation, and Assessment Committee (MEAC) made the decision to discontinue the PLDS and invest resources in developing a tool that would better support the field.
The result has been the development of Benchmark: Library Metrics and Trends. It is PLA’s latest investment in data resources and fills a gap in U.S. libraries’ ability to understand their own performance as it relates to their peers. In designing Benchmark, PLA:
- Is focusing on future data collection work on new topics and trends in the field,
- Has developed a set of library peer groups that will help libraries better understand who their peers are and what key operational data points look like for those groups, and
- Is increasing resources and training to help library staff gain confidence in their own data skills and improve their ability to use existing tools and data sets to understand their community.