Benchmark: Library Metrics and Trends

Benchmark logoBenchmark: 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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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).

Access Benchmark   Become a Subscriber


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.

Programs & Services: Number of Library Programs chart thumbnail   Technology: Public Computer Use per Capita chart thumbnail

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.


Access

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 visualizations and filters.
  • 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 plabenchmark@ala.org. Please note that the website will look and function best on a laptop or desktop screen.


Subscription Information

Subscribe today! Subscriptions are for one year. The types of subscriptions offered are:

Public Libraries cost icon
Public Libraries

Consortium/State Library Agency/Group cost icon
Consortium / State Library Agency / Group

Corporate cost icon
Corporate

Subscriptions and surveys are handled at the administrative entity level; an administrative entity may include multiple branch libraries. A consortium, state library agency, or other group may purchase one subscription that provides access for up to 10 libraries. Additional libraries can be added at a discounted rate. Companies, vendors, or other organizations.

Cost per year:
$400

10% discounts available for PLA organizational members and for survey participants* (for a combined 20% off!).

Cost per year:
$3000 for up to 10 libraries, and $200 for each additional library.

10% discount available for PLA organizational members.

Cost per year:
$1,800

10% discount available for PLA organizational members.

*Survey participant discounts will be available for libraries that complete the Public Library Services for Strong Communities Survey being administered in fall 2022 and for future topical surveys.

Subscriptions for consultants/researchers are coming in 2022.

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.


More Information

More information is available in the Frequently Asked Questions (PDF). If you have other questions, please contact plabenchmark@ala.org.

Watch a free on-demand webinar, "Introducing Benchmark: Library Metrics and Trends," which PLA hosted on November 8, 2021.


Background

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 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.