Stacking Bar Charts to Breakdown Budgets

Happy fall to the library community! The official first day of autumn is still a day away, but the air is starting to have that crisp, fresh feeling to it, so I’m celebrating early. At Library Research Service (LRS), we can also celebrate the posting of another year’s worth of library data. The 2022 Public Library Annual Report (PLAR) data is now publicly available, which means data visualizations in The Public Library Blueprints will contain the latest 2022 public library data.

The first topic we’ll explore with 2022 data is a universal concern throughout the library world: funding and expenditures. In a previous Public Library Blueprints post we explored materials expenditures per capita in relation to circulation, but in this post we’ll zoom out to take a look at total expenditures per capita and the breakdown of expenditures. The Public Library Survey divides operating expenditures into three categories: materials, staffing and other expenditures. Within materials expenditures, data is collected on expenditures for print volumes, subscriptions, e-resources, and other material expenditures.

Naturally, different types and sizes of libraries are going to have different sources and levels of funding as well as different methods for allocating funds to best meet the needs of their community, so it’s logical to wonder what these differences look like. The charts below visualize total expenditures per capita and the breakdown of expenditures per capita for rural, town, suburban and city libraries in search of an answer. Dividing expenditures by the legal service area (LSA) population of a library to calculate per capita expenditures helps account for size differences, so comparisons can be made across different types of libraries. The types of libraries we’re comparing in this post (rural, town, suburban, and city) are the locale designations which come from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ (IMLS) Library Search and Compare tool. Before diving into the charts below, it should be noted that there are many different ways that libraries are funded including federal, state, and local funds. Although per person expenditures are presented in the charts below, this does not mean that all of the money being spent was acquired through local funding. Alright, now with these notes in mind, let’s dive into stacked bar charts and library budgets…

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Sara Wicen
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