HAPLR Library Rankings Mark 10th Anniversary

July 1, 2009

The 10th-anniversary edition of Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings (HAPLR), the annual ranking of over 9,000 libraries nationwide, was published June 30. Compiled by Thomas J. Hennen Jr., director of the Waukesha County (Wis.) Federated Library System, the index rates libraries using 15 factors—among them cost per circulation, visits per capita, and expenditures per capita—based on data gathered by the Federal-State Cooperative System and published by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The top five libraries in the 500,000-and-higher population category are (in order) Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library, Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Library, Multnomah County (Ore.) Library, Salt Lake County (Utah) Library System, and Hennepin County (Minn.) Library. Topping the other population categories are: Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries (250,000); Naperville (Ill.) Public Library (100,000); Washington-Centerville (Ohio) Public Library (50,000); Porter (Ohio) Public Library (25,000); Twinsburg (Ohio) Public Library (10,000); Columbiana (Ohio) Public Library (5,000); James Kennedy Public Library (2,500), Dyersville, Iowa; and Centerburg (Ohio) Public Library (1,000).

Hennen notes that only 11 libraries have appeared in all nine editions of the ratings: Bridgeport (W.Va.) Public Library, Carmel Clay (Ind.) Public Library, Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Library, Denver Public Library, Hennepin County (Minn.) Library, Johnson County (Kans.) Library, Naperville (Ill.) Public Library, Saint Charles (Mo.) City-County Library District, Santa Clara County (Calif.) Library, Twinsburg (Ohio) Public Library, and Washington-Centerville (Ohio) Public Library.

He adds that 173 other libraries have made the list two or more times. “In all,” he observes, “299 libraries have appeared as a HAPLR top-10 library in one of the 10 population categories over the years.”

On his blog, Hennen speculated on how Gov. Ted Strickland’s proposed cuts to library funding might affect Ohio’s dominance of HAPLR over the past decade, since one-quarter of all top-10 libraries have been located in the state. “Cuts in 2010 will not show up until the data are published by IMLS in 2012. That will have an impact on the HAPLR ratings in 2013. Furthermore, budget cuts will mean reductions in such things as circulation and visits to a library but it takes a while for the funding reductions to result in reduced library use.”

“In no other state are libraries as dependent on state funding as in Ohio,” Hennen continued. “It is not at all unusual for a library to be 80% or more funded by the state. So state funding cuts of 50% will mean cuts of 40% or more for many Ohio libraries.”

“The fate of most American libraries is an entirely local matter, as [former U.S. House Speaker] Tip O'Neill said in an entirely different context about politics in general,” Hennen told American Libraries, going on to note: “The problem with Ohio’s model of success is the very essence of its Achilles’ heel. The rising tide of Ohio state funding these many years past lifted all library boats in Ohio; a waning tide will lower them all as surely.” Nonetheless, Hennen predicted, “I bet that library supporters in Ohio will win the day, but it is still too early to tell.”


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