Investigative Report: Iowa Libraries Refocus Spending as New Technologies Change the Way People Read
Here’s a 2,000 word report from IowaWatch.org that will be of interest to many of you.
Loads of data along with comments from a number of Iowa librarians.
The report includes a spreadsheet of collection expenditures by all Iowa public libraries (FY 2003-FY 2012.) It’s also available here.
No longer limited to ink and paper, Iowa’s public libraries are spending increasing amounts of money on new technologies, such as eBooks and iPads. The number of computers in these libraries increased 76 percent from 2003 and 2012.
But it has come at a cost.
Some items – notably magazines, newspapers, compact discs and reference materials such as encyclopedias – no longer are being purchased. Library operators are expanding the percentage of their budgets spent on technology. And staff training to understand expensive technology and maintaining it is a challenge, particularly at a time when budgets are razor-thin.
Ten years ago, in fiscal 2003, Iowa libraries spent $2.12 million – or 17 percent of the spending on collections – on audio, video and electronic, downloadable collections. Just nine years later in fiscal 2012, they spent $4.38 million, which amounted to 32 percent of their collections spending, an IowaWatch analysis of budget data for every community public library in Iowa shows.
The North Liberty Community Library is wrapping up an expansion that tripled the library’s size but also gave its leaders a chance to make some upgrades. “In anticipation of the move, we got rid of musical CDs,” Director Dee Crowner said. “We’re also switching out the Dewey Decimal system for new subject-based catalogues.”
An IowaWatch review of library budgets shows that Iowa libraries spent $1,483,876 on electronic and downloadable books in 2012. That is 10.4 percent of total spending on collections. It also is more than triple what was spent on electronic books in 2003 – $476,327.
Print collections still accounted for most of the library spending in the most recently available data, but the increase has been slight, from $8.4 million in fiscal 2003 to $9.4 million in fiscal 2012.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.