Library data shows JP branch strengths

April 6, 2010
By

John Ruch

Egleston a low scorer

Web Exclusive

The local Jamaica Plain and Connolly branch libraries have some of the city’s top usage numbers in key categories—including the city’s top branch circulation—according to data released last week by the Boston Public Library (BPL) that is part of the consideration to close or consolidate branch libraries.

But the nearby Egleston Square Branch Library on the JP/Roxbury border could be in trouble, as it scores low to middling in every category—including the city’s lowest branch circulation figure.

Whatever the numbers, any or all of the three branches could be on the chopping block when the BPL trustees vote Friday morning on the fate of the branch system. The BPL is also using other criteria in its decision-making, including public feedback and the “story behind the branches.”

The BPL released 2009 data about all 26 branch libraries, listing the branches alphabetically rather than by any ranking. The data categories include circulation; foot traffic; programs offered; attendance at programs; public computer use; and wireless Internet use. The Gazette analyzed the data to see how the local branches measure up in terms of raw numbers.

The Jamaica Plain Branch at 12 Sedgwick St. has the number one circulation figure and is in the top 10 of all branches in terms of foot traffic and wireless Internet use. It scores middling to low in other categories.

The Connolly at 433 Centre St. is number two in programs offered and attended. It scores low to middling in other categories.

The Egleston Square Branch at 2044 Columbus Ave. had the overall lowest figures among the three JP-area branches. Its highest performance is number 12 in public computer use out of 25 branches (not counting the temporarily closed Brighton branch).

But the numbers also show that all of the branches are heavily used. The Jamaica Plain Branch had over 90,000 individual visitors last year; the Connolly over 61,000; and the Egleston Square Branch over 47,000.

The numbers are also raw and not adjusted for the size of the library. All three JP-area branches are less than half the size of some newer branches. The Honan-Allston Branch has the city’s second-highest branch circulation figure, behind the Jamaica Plain Branch, even though it is more than twice as big.

The range of figures across the system in some categories is quite similar, so there might not be much difference between higher-ranked and lower-ranked branches.

None of the local branches are rated as handicapped-accessible, even though the Connolly branch had a wheelchair ramp installed at the front entrance a few years ago. In fact, the numbers show that only 11 of the 27 BPL locations are handicapped-accessible today, 20 years after the passage of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. The main Copley Square library is not among those that are rated as fully accessible.

The three local branches are rated as “difficult” for upgrading with new technology, and none of them has a parking lot. The Egleston Square Branch lacks a meeting room, while the other two branches have one.

The BPL also listed the branches’ distance from a “lead library”—any of eight non-local branches that are immune from closure. The distances are: Egleston Square Branch, 1 mile; Connolly 2.1 miles; and Jamaica Plain Branch 2.5 miles.

The data also included how many branches are within 3 square miles of each branch. The citywide range is zero to three branches. The Connolly and Jamaica Plain Branches both have two branches within that area. The Egleston Square Branch has three.

The following figures show how the local branches rank by citywide position in the various categories. (The total number of branches varies from 25 to 26, depending on whether the temporarily closed Brighton Branch was counted.) For complete information, see the BPL web site at www.bpl.org.

Books and Audio-Visual Items Borrowed
Jamaica Plain: 1
Connolly: 13
Egleston Square: 25

Foot Traffic
Jamaica Plain: 8
Connolly: 19
Egleston Square: 22

Public Use of BPL Computers
Egleston Square: 12
Jamaica Plain: 18
Connolly: 22

Program Attendance:
Connolly: 2
Jamaica Plain: 14
Egleston Square: 17

Number of Programs:
Connolly: 2
Jamaica Plain: 13
Egleston Square: 18

Public Wireless Internet Sessions
Jamaica Plain: 10
Connolly: 13
Egleston Square: 16