Building With Bubbles

Back in March, The Public Library Blueprints discussed both scatter plots and packed bubble charts and promised to follow up these two visualization methods with a post on bubble charts, which are a combination of both. After spending lots of time with the Public Library Annual Report (PLAR) data, it’s finally time to tackle bubble charts. While preparing this post, however, we learned that you need a very specific type of data set for a bubble chart to work at all. This post will discuss which circumstances work with bubble charts and which do not, so you are prepared to recognize when and when not to try visualizing your data with a bubble chart.

A much younger, littler version of myself used to love chasing down bubbles only to watch them disappear into thin air as they popped in front of me. I couldn’t help but draw a comparison between those memories and the process of building bubble charts with PLAR data, as I chased down the data I wanted to visualize only to have the idea blow up when I tried to fit this data into a bubble chart. So what does it take to build a chart with bubbles? To answer this question, let’s first address what a bubble chart is and then look at a couple of examples that chart Colorado public library visits and circulation by region…

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