Philadelphia library-city

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)




<p>Changing Demands for Philadelphia Free Library &amp; City Libraries</p> <p>The Library in the City:Changing Demands and </p> <p>a Challenging Future</p> <p>PEW_LIBRRpt_forWEB:forWEB 4/21/12 11:55 AM Page C1</p> <p>PEW_LIBRRpt_forWEB:forWEB 4/21/12 11:55 AM Page C2</p> <p>The Pew Charitable Trusts Philadelphia Research Initiative provides timely, impartial research and analysis on key issues facing Philadelphia for the benefit of the citys citizensand leaders. Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approachto improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. For more information,visit</p> <p>For printed copies of this report, email</p> <p>The Library in the City: Changing Demands and </p> <p>a Challenging Future </p> <p>PEW_LIBRRpt_forWEB:forWEB 4/21/12 11:55 AM Page i</p> <p>PEW_LIBRRpt_forWEB:forWEB 4/21/12 11:55 AM Page ii</p> <p>Executive Summary 2</p> <p>Introduction 5</p> <p>1. The Rise In Urban Library Use 62. The Free Library of Philadelphia 123. Libraries and the Recession 224. Issues Facing Philadelphias Library: </p> <p>Facilities, Staffing and Governance 28</p> <p>5. The Future of The Free Library: Challenges and Options 40</p> <p>Notes 45</p> <p>Methodology 47</p> <p>Acknowledgements 48</p> <p>CONTENTS</p> <p>PEW_LIBRRpt_forWEB:forWEB 4/21/12 11:55 AM Page 1</p> <p>2TH</p> <p>E L</p> <p>IBR</p> <p>AR</p> <p>Y I</p> <p>N T</p> <p>HE</p> <p> CIT</p> <p>Y: C</p> <p>HA</p> <p>NG</p> <p>ING</p> <p> DE</p> <p>MA</p> <p>ND</p> <p>S A</p> <p>ND</p> <p> A C</p> <p>HA</p> <p>LLE</p> <p>NG</p> <p>ING</p> <p> FU</p> <p>TU</p> <p>RE</p> <p>Big-city public libraries have rarely been as popular as they are today and rarely as besieged. Thehard economic times of recent years have generated increased demand for the free and varied serv-ices libraries provide, even as revenue-challenged local governments have cut back on contribu-tions to library budgets. All of this comes at a time when libraries are being asked to perform a newand changing range of functions. </p> <p>Due partly to their role as societys default provider of computer and Internet access, todays urbanlibraries help residentsincluding those with limited incomes and educationsfind jobs, obtainhealth information, and connect to government services and benefits. In so doing, the institutionsare fulfilling what is sometimes called their shadow mandate, supporting and complementing thework of other public agencies.</p> <p>They are responding to the changing needs of the urban populations they serve. City residents nowsee libraries, particularly neighborhood branches, as multipurpose community centers, offeringbusiness services, tax assistance, safe havens for children after school, and places where immigrantscan learn English. And libraries still lend books and DVDs.</p> <p>The Free Library of Philadelphia, a $63.6 million system that has been weakened by budget cutsover the last few years, is struggling to keep up with this broad and growing range of demands.1</p> <p>Other big-city library systems are struggling, too, although there are some success stories to tell.</p> <p>To see how Philadelphia is faring, and to understand the challenges facing urban libraries acrossAmerica, we examined the Free Librarys operations and compared them to those of 14 other li-brary systems: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Chicago, Columbus (Ohio), Detroit,Los Angeles, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Queens, San Francisco and Seattle.2</p> <p>Among the findings of the report are:</p> <p> Philadelphians use their libraries less than their counterparts in most of the 14 other urbancommunities studied. On a per capita basis, the Free Library of Philadelphia is below averagein terms of circulation and visits, even though it ranks relatively high in terms of branches percapita. Its recent growth in both circulation and visits has been in line with the other cities. Use of library computers in Philadelphia has risen by 80 percent in the last six years; the FreeLibrary ranks 11th of the 15 systems in the number of public-access computers per capita.Philadelphia ranks high in participation in library-sponsored programming, such as storytimesfor children and speaker series for adults. </p> <p> One factor contributing to Philadelphians relatively low use of their libraries has been the ex-traordinary number of times that branches have experienced temporary, unscheduled closingsin the past few years. In Fiscal 2010, the system had 8,000 hours of such closings, an increaseof more than 1,000 percent from two years earlier. In Fiscal 2011, unplanned closures weredown to 3,662 hours. Many of these hours were lost due to staffing shortages, which hap-pened in none of the other cities studied except Detroit. </p> <p>Executive Summary</p> <p>PEW_LIBRRpt_forWEB:forWEB 4/21/12 11:55 AM Page 2</p> <p>EX</p> <p>EC</p> <p>UT</p> <p>IVE</p> <p> SU</p> <p>MM</p> <p>AR</p> <p>Y</p> <p>3</p> <p> The Free Library has been slower than some other big-city libraries to adapt to the changingneeds of its population. Other systems have moved more aggressively to open centers forteenagers, increase programming for children, provide health information, adjust hours to encour-age maximum patronage, increase the number of public-access computers, and revamp theircentral libraries to make them more welcoming. Officials at the Free Library said they have plansto take action on several of these fronts; a teen area at the main library, Parkway Central, openedin March 2012. </p> <p> In Philadelphia, efforts to adjust to changing customer demands in a tough fiscal environment arecomplicated by a complex and often cumbersome governing structure. The library is part cityagency and part free-standing nonprofit. It reports to two separate governing boards, gets overallpolicy direction from the mayors office, and must have its budget approved by City Council.</p> <p> Overall library spending in Philadelphia, at $43 per resident in 2011, is slightly below the averagefor the communities studied. Between 2008 and 2010, when municipal budgets were hit hard bythe recession, the Free Library experienced larger cutbacks than many of its counterparts, withstaff size down 14 percent, scheduled service hours down 12 percent, and contributions from alllevels of government down 19 percent. During that period, city funding of the library declined bya larger percentage than did overall city spending.</p> <p>To get a sense of how Philadelphians use and regard their library system, the Philadelphia Research Initiative asked 1,600 adult residents a series of questions in a telephone survey conducted in January2012. </p> <p>Among the results are these:</p> <p> Fifty-one percent of all respondents say they visited a library at least once in the past 12 months,and 30 percent of all respondents went at least once a month. </p> <p> Among library users, 57 percent report having taken a child to the library. Ninety-one percent saythe librarys role as a safe space for children is a very important function. </p> <p> Fifty-seven percent of adult library patrons say they used a library computer for Internet access,and most did so at least once a month. Usage is higher, 67 percent, among library customers withhousehold incomes under $30,000. The only more popular library activity, engaged in by 79 per-cent of users, is borrowing books and other materials, evidence that this long-established func-tion retains its importance in the digital age.</p> <p> Fifty-six percent of residents and 67 percent of library users say that closing their local branch library would have a major impact on the neighborhood. Should more budget cuts be neces-sary, Philadelphians would prefer to see reductions in branch hours as opposed to branch closings. </p> <p>PEW_LIBRRpt_forWEB:forWEB 4/21/12 11:55 AM Page 3</p> <p>4TH</p> <p>E L</p> <p>IBR</p> <p>AR</p> <p>Y I</p> <p>N T</p> <p>HE</p> <p> CIT</p> <p>Y: C</p> <p>HA</p> <p>NG</p> <p>ING</p> <p> DE</p> <p>MA</p> <p>ND</p> <p>S A</p> <p>ND</p> <p> A C</p> <p>HA</p> <p>LLE</p> <p>NG</p> <p>ING</p> <p> FU</p> <p>TU</p> <p>RE</p> <p>Based on the recent experiences of libraries in Philadelphia and in the other cities studied, the re-port discusses some of the Free Librarys challenges and policy options. They include:</p> <p> Prioritizing services. In an age of limited resources, library management has to make choices.Today, the librarys public-access computers are constantly at capacity while certain specialcollections are rarely visited; high-profile talks at Parkway Central are in high demand whileother programs are sparsely attended. </p> <p> Making Parkway Central a more welcoming place, particularly for young people. Often seen asa temple of knowledge, the grand structure is in line for a makeover and expansion. New andrefurbished central libraries in other cities feature flexible spaces and large areas for the pub-lic, with less area given over to stacks and other behind-the-scenes uses.</p> <p> Simplifying the governing structure with a view toward increasing the librarys ability to adaptto changing demands and circumstances.</p> <p> Reevaluating branch hours to make sure they are distributed in a way that encourages libraryuse. The experience of other library systems suggests that a shift to more weekend service cando a lot to generate visits and circulation. Branch maintenance also is critical.</p> <p> Exploring the potential for identifying an achievable, sustainable level of funding and makinglong-term plans based on that level. In some cities, voters have approved dedicated fundingsources for their libraries. </p> <p>PEW_LIBRRpt_forWEB:forWEB 4/21/12 11:55 AM Page 4</p> <p>INT</p> <p>RO</p> <p>DU</p> <p>CT</p> <p>ION</p> <p>5</p> <p>In late 2008, as the deepening recession</p>


View more >