Saturday, January 12, 2019

Three star library

The 2018 Library Journal Star Ratings for Libraries is out. It has probably been out for awhile, but I only just noticed. You see, I sort of accidentally stepped in it and thought "What's that smell?".

Sorry, that was a little strong. I was actually just sending the magazine in transit somewhere, and since I always have hated the Library Journal Star Ratings I took a look at it because I occasionally like to hate things and I wasn't near the Internet at that time.

Boy, don't get me started on that Internet!

Now before anyone says "Aw, it's just sour grapes because your library only got three stars!" I just want to say, hey, we discuss things respectfully around here and there's no reason to bring that kind of tone to this discourse!

Oh, right, I did just compare Library Journal's list to dog crap, but I apologized!

So let's keep it clean everybody.

Anyway, yes, my library did get three stars, which is not four stars. And it is definitely not five stars. But there are a lot of caveats I'd like to point out about this.

1. Being on the list itself is already supposed to be a triumph. Most library systems across America have no stars at all!

2. This is for library systems. I can't help it if my "Jewel of the System" library is being dragged down in aggregate by other libraries in my system that are run by lunatics.

3. I don't take any offense. I guess in reality we probably are, fairly speaking, about a three star library.

4. And this is the super important one, actually it's the only important one: This is a terrible way to measure libraries! It's all data, data, data, and not even that much of it. It's all about how many visits per capita, how many checkouts, how many e-book checkouts, computer use, and program attendance.

Now I'm not saying this data is useless in measuring the quality of libraries, but I am saying that everything they do use is worth maybe three percent of judging a library.

Do you know how you can get the other 97 percent?

Here, let me present an analogy. Let's say you are one of the biggest food and restaurant magazines in the country. You want to name the best restaurants. So here's what you do: You find out who has the most customers per table. See how much butter they use per customer. Find out how many items they have on their menu. Add it all up, best restaurant!

Or you can go and eat there.


  1. Not unlike teachers and whole schools being judged entirely on standardized test scores.

    1. Yes, quite like it, and for some library administrators I suspect it is a pull on where they apply their resources and what they choose to work towards.


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