January 16, 2022

Public Library Association Introduces “Benchmark Briefings: For U.S. Public Libraries”; Free Resource Allows for Library Peer Comparison

From Public Library Association (via American Library Association):

The Public Library Association (PLA) has launched the Benchmark Briefings to support public libraries’ access and use of data. The free resource translates data from the Public Libraries Survey (PLS) conducted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) into accessible infographics to ease library peer comparison across key characteristics.


In the briefings, infographics highlight key measures commonly used by public libraries when making decisions about library investments: expenditures, staff, collections, circulation, visits and programs. The data are organized by library and community characteristics to better enable libraries to quickly benchmark themselves with others with similar attributes. For instance, 25.5 percent of public libraries are considered suburban and had a median of 11 FTE staff and hosted a median of 107,313 visits in IMLS fiscal year 2018. Or, library districts had a median of $44 per capita expenditures and a median of 471 program attendees per 1,000 residents in FY18.

The characteristics used for peer comparison include: library legal basis (e.g., municipal or district), region, locale (city, suburb, or rural), community members identifying as persons of color, and community members age 25 or over with a college degree or higher. Demographic characteristics are based on the census tract in which the administrative entity is located and come from the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.

The Benchmark Briefings were developed using IMLS fiscal year 2018 Public Libraries Survey data by members from PLA’s Measurement, Evaluation, and Assessment Committee (MEAC), PLA staff, and the American Institutes for Research.

Direct to Benchmark Briefings Website (Interactive) (via PLA)

Direct to Benchmark Briefing (Summary Document)
43 pages; PDF.

Direct to Benchmark Briefing  Summary Document as Spreadsheet (.xls)

Direct to Complete Publication Announcement

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) 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.