Great American Public Libraries: HAPLR Ratings, Round Two

Article excerpt

A TABULATION OF NEW FEDERAL DATA SUPPLIES MORE EVIDENCE OF EXCELLENCE

Was the weather better before climatologists invented the wind-chill index or does it just seem that way? Does a library-rating index change the value or quality of the service provided, or, like the windchill index, does it just seem that way?

Librarianship has always lacked any commonly accepted indicators of what excellence is. Unlike a listing of top-500 corporations that reveal the success of public companies to all, the library and information services industry produces no intelligible reports that likewise inform stakeholders interested in libraries. Hennen's American Public Library Rating (HAPLR) seeks to help change that situation.

Comparisons to the first HAPLR Index

The first edition of the HAPLR Index (AL, Jan., 72-76) was based on data submitted by each state to the Federal-State Cooperative System (FSCS) for 1996. This second edition of the index is based on 1997 early-release data from FSCS as published on the World Wide Web in March. The data does not become final until publication by the U.S. Department of Education sometime later this year.

The HAPLR Index uses six input and nine output measures. The measures are calculated from the FSCS. Each factor was weighted and scored. The scores for each library, within a population category, were then added to develop a weighted score. The HAPLR Index is similar to an ACT or SAT score with a theoretical minimum of I and a maximum of 1,000. About 90% of libraries in each population group scored between 260 and 730.

Reaction to the First Edition

American Libraries published the first HAPLR Index (AL, Jan. 72-76). "Go Ahead Name Them: America's Best Public Libraries" was a first-ever attempt to rate all of America's public libraries using an index similar to those used for rating cities, colleges, and hospitals. The article received so much publicity in newspapers across the country that AL posted the entire article on its Web site for download by journalists and individuals. The HAPLR Index site at www.haplr-index.com received more than 5,000 unique visitors that retrieved tens of thousands of pages in its first three months.

The article and the index engendered more publicity than most American Libraries articles. Why the interest? It is probably because newspapers and their readers love rankings and winning. It is also because an index number such as the HAPLR Index encapsulates a good deal of quantitative information in a single number that can be measured against all others.

The HAPLR Index received attention from newspapers, magazines, and TV stations throughout the country.

An Ohio wire service noted that "Ohio libraries sizzle!" In the Akron Beacon Journal, the director of the Twinsburg Public Library in Ohio, Karen Tschudy, noted: "You always believe your library is among the best. It's nice to see somebody prove it. We're very proud." Larry Black, director of Columbus Metropolitan Library was quoted in the Columbus Dispatch with: "It's sort of nice to be at the top of one of those. We were very pleased, of course, to have an outside organization validate our efforts." Bexley Public Library was rated number one in libraries serving between 10,000 and 99,999 people. "Primarily, I think we have some good management, and I'm proud of what we're doing," said Robert Stafford, Bexley's library director. Stafford credited the General Assembly for providing revenue for public libraries. Ohio sets aside 5.7% of personal income tax receipts for public libraries. Generous state funding helped give Ohio 17 of the top 60 small libraries. Five of the top seven libraries serving populations between 10,000 and 99,999 are in Ohio.

In Virginia the Loudoun County Library's director was happy to be able to lead into a TV interview with their top ranking rather than yet another statement on its Internet filtering lawsuit (AL, Jan. …