Monday, August 24, 2015

Library Data Looks Different by Locale

Locale codes are derived from a classification system originally developed by NCES in the 1980s to describe a school's location ranging from "large city" to "rural." Substantial improvements in geocoding and revisions to the definition of metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas have led to a "core based statistical area" system that relies less on population size and county boundaries and more on the proximity of an address to an urbanized area.

For libraries, this provides additional information about their area and a means of more completely identifying and comparing public libraries. (These codes have been added to the 2014 "publib" and "plall" files of Wisconsin Public Library Service Data linked to dpi.wi.gov/pld/data-reports/service-data.)

Locale Codes

City, LargeTerritory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with population of 250,000 or more.
City, MidsizeTerritory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with population less than 250,000 and greater than or equal to 100,000.
City, SmallTerritory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with population less than 100,000.
Suburb, LargeTerritory outside a principal city and inside an urbanized area with population of 250,000 or more.
Suburb, MidsizeTerritory outside a principal city and inside an urbanized area with population less than 250,000 and greater than or equal to 100,000.
Suburb, SmallTerritory outside a principal city and inside an urbanized area with population less than 100,000.
Town, FringeTerritory inside an urban cluster that is less than or equal to 10 miles from an urbanized area.
Town, DistantTerritory inside an urban cluster that is more than 10 miles and less than or equal to 35 miles from an urbanized area.
Town, RemoteTerritory inside an urban cluster that is more than 35 miles from an urbanized area.
Rural, FringeCensus-defined rural territory that is less than or equal to 5 miles from an urbanized area, as well as rural territory that is less than or equal to 2.5 miles from an urban cluster.
Rural, DistantCensus-defined rural territory that is more than 5 miles but less than or equal to 25 miles from an urbanized area, as well as rural territory that is more than 2.5 miles but less than or equal to 10 miles from an urban cluster.
Rural, RemoteCensus-defined rural territory that is more than 25 miles from an urbanized area and is also more than 10 miles from an urban cluster.

Here's an example of looking at library data by locale. Statewide circulation of physical material decreased 5.4% from 2013 to 2014, but circulation increased at 62 Wisconsin public libraries. Counting these libraries by locale, 44 were "rural," 12 were "town," and 6 were "suburb." Looking from 2009 to 2014, a larger pattern emerges.

Number of Wisconsin Public Libraries Where Circulation Increased

Locale2009-102010-112011-122012-132013-14
City (16 libraries)88310
Suburb (46 libraries)23121696
Town (98 libraries)4540372612
Rural (221 libraries)129104916844

This suggests that changes in the way people use public libraries first become apparent in more urban areas. The picture isn't complete—for example, the 44 libraries where circulation increased last year haven't seen increases every year—but if you want to compare libraries, taking locale into account can help.

For more information about locale codes, see nces.ed.gov/ccd/rural_locales.asp#defs.

Written by Jamie McCanless, Public Library Development Team