The Star Libraries

Welcome to the latest update on America’s Star Libraries and the data that earn them that distinction. The LJ Index of Public Library Service 2011, sponsored by Baker & Taylor’s Bibliostat, is based on 2009 data released by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in July 2011.

Welcome to the latest update on America’s Star Libraries and the data that earn them that distinction. The LJ Index of Public Library Service 2011, sponsored by Baker & Taylor’s Bibliostat, is based on 2009 data released by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in July 2011.

See the Star Libraries by Expenditure Category:


  Highlight: Charlotte Mecklenburg, NC


  Highlight: Howard County Library, Columbia, MD


  Highlight: Patchogue-Medford Library, NY


  Highlight: Twinsburg Public Library, OH


  Highlight: Roseland Free Public Library, NJ


  Highlight: McCall Public Library, ID


  Highlight: Port Orford Library, OR


  Highlight: Ely Public Library, IA


  Highlight: Real County Public Library, Leakey, TX

This year’s LJ Index scores are responsible for a record-setting 262 Star Libraries owing to seven instances of ties. And this year’s Index assigns Stars to 67 new or returning libraries that did not make the list last year. There are Star Libraries in 39 states, including two not represented in the 2010 round: North Carolina and Idaho. Because the LJ Index groups libraries by operating expenditures, there is no guarantee that every state will be represented among a given year’s Star Libraries. Owing to this structure—and the reality that there are fewer libraries in the highest-spending categories than the others—states that include fewer libraries, fewer and smaller metropolitan areas, and more and smaller rural communities tend to suffer a competitive disadvantage. Such conditions likely figure in to why Louisiana, Nevada, and Wyoming, which were represented in the 2010 round, are not represented this year. Eight additional states are not represented in either the 2011 or 2010 rounds. As this is the fourth edition of the LJ Index, it seems a good time to reflect on the scope and design of the project in the changing library landscape. There have been two dramatic changes affecting the Star Library ratings and LJ Index scores during their short history: the number of eligible and participating libraries has grown steadily, and the structure of the index itself has remained remarkably stable, even strengthening in some respects. In addition, if you need more evidence that public libraries are delivering despite economic hard times, consider this: our analysis also revealed that, for example, the two most long-established per capita measures—circulation and visits—rose dramatically compared with prerecession years. Considering the anecdotal evidence of branch closures and reduced hours and staffing, such statistical evidence of rising demand for public libraries is all the more impressive.

Even more libraries

The number of libraries included in the index keeps rising. For inclusion, public libraries must meet the IMLS definition of a public library; have annual operating expenditures of at least $10,000; have a legal service area population of at least 1000; and report all four per capita service measures on which the index score is based (for an FAQ about the LJ Index, please go to In the LJ Index’s first year, 7,115 libraries met those criteria; today, 7,513 do (see Table 1). The number of libraries excluded from the LJ Index solely for failing to report all four service measures dropped by more than 43 percent, from 919 in 2009’s first round to 520 in this 2011 edition. This is very encouraging. The fiscal fates of U.S. public libraries between 2006 and 2009 doubtless ran the gamut of gains and losses. The explanations for changes over that interval in the distribution of libraries receiving LJ Index scores must include both movement of libraries between expenditures categories and increased participation in the project. The change in some spending categories is noteworthy. Each of the three largest spending categories grew dramatically—$30 million and over, from 31 to 48 libraries (a 55% increase); $10 million–$29.9 million, from 88 to 107 (a 22% increase), and $5 million–$9.9 million, from 159 to 211 (a 33% increase). Most of these increases were attributable to more libraries reporting all four per capita measures. Perhaps the most intriguing group is the smallest one. The number of libraries spending at least $10,000 but less than $50,000 shrunk from 1,088 to 953, a 12% decrease. While some of those libraries climbed into the next higher spending category, others probably experienced cuts that put them below the $10,000 criterion required to receive an LJ Index score. See the libraries that received stars from the LJ Index of Public Library Service 2011. Go to Trends in the LJ Index to read more about how the structure of the index is holding up over time.

See also: All the Star Libraries, State by State


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