My Turn: All you want to know about our county libraries is in one book
October 11, 2005
It’s one of the most important books any library can receive. Each year around this time the modest-looking title arrives in the mail in a plain brown package. However, few hands will ever open its covers. The pumpkin-colored paperback contains only 1 postage stamp-sized illustration, and that’s merely a silhouette of California on its cover. But no scintillating writing can be found in its pages. In fact, the only paragraphs in evidence are within its brief introduction. The rest of its pages are just one chart after another. Nevertheless, it imparts significant details about our Library that should be shared on a wide scale.The book is California Library Statistics, produced and distributed by the California State Library from data submitted annually by libraries throughout the Golden State. The latest 2005 edition utilizes data from the 2003/2004 fiscal year. Forty-nine county libraries, as well as 115 city libraries, three combined city-county libraries, and 12 special district public libraries are represented. The publication is the standard measuring tool in which library productivity and performance indicators are compared.Public libraries are grouped into seven categories by size of population served. Nevada County Library’s statistics are reflected in Group 4, for those serving 60,000 to 100,000. Thirty-three libraries make up this group, including four other county libraries. Nevada County Library stands out in a number of ways, not the least of which is the fact that it offers the most annual open hours in Group 4. Nevada County Library provides 13,520 public service hours, more than 1,000 more than its closest competitors. Newport Beach Public Library and Palo Alto Public Library, with budgets that are at least four-times higher, offer 12,272 and 11,540 hours per year respectively.In 2003/2004 Nevada County Library had an overall staff size of 28.45 FTE, the full-time equivalency of all persons paid from its budget. This staffing level, almost exactly the same as the current 28.85 FTE, makes Nevada County Library only the 24th highest in Group 4 for staffing size. By comparison, Newport Beach and Palo Alto both possessed staff sizes that were about twice the size of ours, at 62.00 and 52.50 respectively.As so many know, The Truckee, Madelyn Helling and Grass Valley Libraries are Nevada County’s three full-service branches. The Bear River and Penn Valley Library Stations are part-time facilities and The Doris Foley Library in downtown Nevada City specializes in historical research. It should also be mentioned that the Library Literacy Service operates from within the Helling Library. With its six locations, Nevada County Library offers the most public service outlets in Group 4. Mendocino County is the only other jurisdiction with six public library locations.A library’s annual circulation, the number of books and other items checked out, is one of its most basic activity indicators, comparable to sales volume for a business. Nevada County Library’s circulation figure of 621,823 in 2003/2004 is very distinguished indeed, especially for a rural county. The figure represents more than six checkouts for every resident of any age. The Library’s 62,000 active cardholders (or about 65 percent of the county) is similarly impressive and is eighth highest in Group 4. For checkouts per hour, Nevada County Library is on the low side, only 29th in Group 4, partly because the Foley Library doesn’t circulate its materials, although it’s open 5 days per week. California Library Statistics 1999, using 1997/98 data, marks Nevada County Library’s circulation at 270,872. That’s noteworthy because it shows that our circulation has increased about 230 percent in the last six years, or since the initial passage of the Library’s 1/8 cent sales tax initiative, Measure B. The sales tax augmentation was extended for 15 years in 2002 with Measure C. Annual circulation for 2004/2005 climbed to over 650,000. By my estimation, these materials would stretch all the way from Grass Valley to Sacramento and back if placed end-to-end.The success of the sustained growth of Nevada County Library not only stems from the dedicated efforts of our patrons, staff, and volunteers, but also, of course, from the outstanding support of local voters and taxpayers.Special credit must also be accorded to the Friends of the Truckee Library, the Friends of the Nevada County Libraries, the Citizen’s Oversight Committee, the Nevada County Library Foundation, and the County of Nevada. Together all of these groups comprise the Library’s impressive user and support network, a vital majority of the Nevada County community. Steve Fjeldsted is the Nevada County librarian.