Ratings high for Champaign library

Ratings high for Champaign library

CHAMPAIGN — For the third straight year, the Champaign Public Library has earned a four-star rating from Library Journal, putting it among the highest-rated libraries in the nation.

Libraries can earn a maximum five stars in the journal's ratings, which are based on 2011 library statistics. That's after the library had started making cuts to address budget shortfalls but largely before the library started putting restrictions on how many items could be checked out by people who live outside of Champaign-Urbana.

Its 2013 four-out-of-five star rating puts it in the top 3.5 percent of all libraries nationwide, said Library Director Marsha Grove. It was one of about 7,500 libraries to submit numbers for a rating, and one of only 263 to receive at least three stars.

The Champaign Public Library has received at least three stars every year since Library Journal began the annual feature in 2008, which ranks libraries based on per capita circulation, visits, program attendance and Internet use.

"Our numbers are very high in all of those areas because we're in a community where the library is valued," Grove said.

Grove said she puts a lot of stock in Library Journal's ratings.

"I pay attention to it, and I think a lot of libraries across the nation pay attention to it," she said. "It really does evaluate the basic business of what a library does, and it's a real clear comparison."

A four-star repeat next year is up in the air. The library began limiting reciprocal borrowing with other libraries in 2011, which would have affected circulation numbers. That will be in concert with other cuts the library has made since 2009 to staff, programming and materials.

"I think there's a lot of factors going on now, things changing," Grove said. "Some of those cutbacks in our materials are having an effect, some of the cutbacks in programming that we've done."

The library, however, is still being heavily used as evidenced by the ratings.

It will be the topic of conversation during a city council meeting next month. Flat or declining property tax revenues have hit the library hard through the recession, and officials are scheduled to pore over the library's operating budget to figure out how to close budget gaps projected in future years.

If officials do nothing, the library would be running about $3.36 million in the red by 2019. It is operating on a $6.76 million budget this year.

Library officials have been preparing for that meeting for the past couple months and have made it clear that everything is on the table to solve the budget struggles.

"We're moving along," Grove said. "The library board is still working hard on those plans, the administration is working with the library board and looking at what some of the possibilities are."

The Champaign Public Library scored 17th in the nation among libraries its size and was one of 20 Illinois libraries of any size to earn at least three of five stars. Most of those were in suburban Chicago.

The Allerton Public Library in Monticello was the only other East Central Illinois library to make the list. It earned four stars.

How Champaign compared

Below, a look at how Champaign’s library fared against others in the state. All numbers are measured per capita and based on 2011 statistics.

Stars Illinois library Circulation Visits Program attendance Internet use Score
***** Ela Area Public Library District 29.9 11.6 1 6.7 1580
***** Oak Park Public Library 28.1 24.2 0.7 4 1554
***** Northbrook Public Library 26.7 14.2 1.5 1.4 1297
**** Skokie Public Library 34.5 12.7 0.8 2.4 1227
**** Elmhurst Public Library 31.6 12.1 0.6 3.3 1202
**** Champaign Public Library 30.8 12 0.7 1.8 1091
*** Algonquin Area Public Library District 32.2 10.8 0.4 2.1 1021
*** Niles Public Library District 20.7 8 0.9 2.5 976
*** Barrington Public Library District 27.4 9.3 0.7 1.5 943
*** Mount Prospect Public Library 19.6 10.5 0.4 2.9 923
*** Des Plaines Public Library 20.1 10 0.7 2.1 920
*** Vernon Area Public Library District 22.5 8.6 0.9 1.3 903

Source: Library Journal

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