Public Library Closings in Decline
Extracting this information from the IMLS raw data was harder than expected. Not until 2008 and 2009 is there any indicator that a library has ‘closed’. After researching a bit I’ve decided the best estimation is described in this paper [pdf]. The idea is essentially: look for missing entries between years, and use that as a best guess for closing. To test this out I also looked at how many entries remained missing after 2,3,4 and 5 years, as well as hand checking the results. My conclusion is that this is a reasonably reliable method to determine.
Now that the issue of ‘how did we get this data’ is out of the way, the results are fascinating. Confirming what Walt Crawford had mentioned in a post not long ago the state of public library closings is not actually as bleak as it seems. From the data we have it even appears as though public library closing are actually declining over time!
I’ve definitely heard a lot of talk about public library closings, but, anecdotally, whenever I would investigate further I would frequently find that at the last minute plans to close were cancelled. The results above lead me to believe people threaten to close public libraries much more frequently than they actually do.
Data Source: IMLS