If you work in a public library and care about young adult services, there is something simple you can do to help advocate for teen services.

March 30 is the deadline for the 2012 PLDS (Public Library Data Service) survey. Published yearly by PLA, the PLDS Statistical Report contains a wealth of information about public library finances, collections, annual use figures and technology. If you’ve never looked at the PLDS Statistical Report, it’s worth checking out. Your library director probably has a copy.

In 2007, the PLDS survey included a series of questions about young adult services. This was the first national survey about young adult library services since 1994, when the National Center for Education Statistics did a survey. In 2007, 1,672 libraries received the survey, and 904 responded. Of those, 890 responded to the YA services questions. This was good information, but we could do better, and we have a chance, because PLDS is including the young adult services questions again in this year’s survey.

The more information we have about young adult services in libraries, the better prepared we can all be to advocate for teens in libraries. The PLDS survey contains solid information that you can use to make real, concrete changes in your library. For example, suppose you want to make a case that your library needs to spend more money on YA materials. First, you calculate that, say, your library spends $2.85 per teen in your service area each year for teen materials, which is 3.65% of the total library materials budget. From the PLDS survey, you could learn that the average (mean) expenditure per young adult of the libraries surveyed is $3.04, and that the average of young adult materials expenditures as a percentage of the total is 4.0%. So your library is below the mean on both of these measures. Wouldn’t your director or trustees be interested in that?

These average figures came from the 2007 report’s summary charts, but the report also lists each library and its responses, so if you wanted to, you could compare your library to specific other libraries—neighboring libraries, for example, or libraries with about the same population as yours, or libraries with about the same materials budget. So, for example, if you happen to know that your library director is extremely competitive with a neighboring library, you might want to show her that even though that other library has a smaller budget, they spend a greater amount on young adult materials, by dollar amount, by the per-young adult amount, and by percentage of the total.

Those are just a couple of examples of ways you can use the data. Once you start looking at it, you will think of others. But you can only use the data if it’s there. So here’s what you can do:

  • ‘ Go to the PLDS survey site: http://pla.countingopinions.com
  • Click on the link for the worksheet.
  • Look in particular at the last two pages of the worksheet, which contain the questions on young adult services.
  • Answer the questions to the best of your ability.
  • Find out who in your library has the responsibility of submitting the PLDS survey. This is likely to be the director or assistant director, but it could be assigned to someone else, especially in a large system. But the director or assistant director probably knows who.
  • Contact that person and let them know that you are happy to help them answer the questions about young adult services. (In fact, if you’re interested in data-gathering in general, offer to help with the whole survey, especially if your library has never responded before!)
  • Remind that person that the survey is due March 30, and of how important it is to get your information counted.

It’s so easy to just hit the delete key when we get links to surveys, but this one can really help all of us–so stand up and be counted!


About Sarah Flowers

Sarah Flowers is a YALSA Past President and former Deputy County Librarian for the Santa Clara County (CA) Library. Currently she does writing and speaking on topics related to teen services and teaches online courses for California's Infopeople Project.

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