This is a fascinating look at America’s Star Libraries 2021 by the Library Journal (LJ) in what has been a very difficult period for libraries and indeed everyone across the world.
It is the 14th year in which LJ has scored U.S. public libraries on the LJ Index of Public Library Service and awarded Star Library ratings. The 2021 scores and ratings are based on FY19 data from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Public Library Survey (PLS).
The article notes that because of the unavoidable delay in data collection and analysis, this year’s Star Libraries once again represent not the current pandemic realities but a sort of pre-pandemic time capsule. Nonetheless, as such, they represent a useful point of comparison. LJ interviewed library directors to learn how the pandemic has changed things since these numbers were collected.
Interestingly LJ note that “of course, during pandemic times, library websites have become essential like never before.” Some suppressed physical circulation—for example, a shift to indefinite loans until facilities can reopen. Some raised it-such as expanding deposit collections or introducing new methods of distributing materials “in quantity” during the pandemic (for example, bags of books based on individuals’ identified interests).If it was not already clear that a public library’s website is, in fact, a virtual branch, the extra traffic driven to such websites in 2020 due to the enforced closure of the vast majority of public library facilities will make it undeniable.
So where are America’s Star Libraries 2021? Is your library listed there? You can check on individual libraries and the enormous amount of data on them in the article. The detail is here
THE 2021 STARS
Some 79—three out of 10—of 2021’s 261 Star Libraries were not Star Libraries in 2020. Notably, the number of new Star libraries in 2021 exceeds the annual number of new Star libraries from 2009 through 2018.
Five-Star Libraries: There are 16 new five-star libraries for 2021
Four-Star Libraries: There are 26 new four-star libraries this year
Three-Star Libraries: For 2021, there are 36 new three-star libraries.
From 2020 to 2021, 18 U.S. public libraries improved their Star Library ratings while remaining in the same spending categories.
STILL STARS, NEW CONSTELLATIONS
7 libraries retained Star Library status while moving up or down between spending categories.
Next year’s Star Library interviews will certainly explore how libraries reported each of the LJ Index statistics differently than they did pre-pandemic. Like every other aspect of life, post-pandemic public library statistics are likely to change to a “new normal” rather than revert to pre-pandemic reporting practices. The 15th edition of Star Libraries and the LJ Index will definitely be interesting!
Thank you to the Library Journal for this insightful article on America’s Star Libraries 2021.