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Through an analytical and comparative study, this paper examines the development and current status of the United States' and China's national library statistical systems, their natural functions and key system characteristics, usability of performance measures, and each system's strengths and shortcomings. A distinction is made between government centered and profession centered systems. Four f actors are identified influencing the systems' characteristics. By finding commonalities and discrepancies between the two countries' statistical systems, the article provides library professionals, governmental administrators, and educators with the opportunity to learn from each other's practices and experiences, to conduct further investigations into the purpose and characteristics of the stat istical systems, and ultimately, to improve nationwide library planning and evaluation in their own country.
Objectives of this study therefore are fourfold. First, the national statistical system in both the U.S. and P.R. China are described. Second, key characteristics of these system are examined. These include system function, data manipulation, and standardization and implementation. Third, the relation of the data utilization and library performance measures is discussed. Initial comparison betwe en two countries of the national systems is supplied, and is based on the latest information on each system that I can find. Finally, an attempt is made to provide some insight into possible future developments as well as a system assessment.
After years of efforts to find a better way to report useful and up to date data on public libraries, librarians in both the countries have built up their own unique statistical systems on national public libraries. Such systems, this study's subjects, can be categorized as government centered systems or professional or non governmental systems. The distinction between the two kinds of systems i s based on the clients served by each system and their missions. The systems of the U.S. and China, respectively, are described below.
Features of these four systems can be seen from this table:
Table not available, please contact Author.
Although the aims of all these systems are to support administration and decision making, their individual objectives are not really quite the same. In China the government system tends to use statistical data for making budget guidelines or for library information exchange. The U.S. professional system on other hand intends to use these data for library professionals to make observations on the effectiveness of library services, to demonstrate accountibility, to identify staff development needs, and to improve service design. NCES conducts its surveys in fulfillment of its legislative mission "to collect, and analyze, and disseminate statistics and other data related to education in the United States and in other nations" (USCA, 1988). It intends to primarily serve federal government e xecutive and legislative needs.
The data element as a crucial part of the statistical system embodies and condenses a system's platform and guidelines. NCES includes a total of 44 items collected from each library 33 basic data elements including population of legal services area, service outlets, staffing, collection, circulation, visits and facilities; and 11 identifying items including name, address, interlibrary relatio nship and administrative structure. There are also an additional 12 items collected on each public library outlet and state library outlet. PLDS has more than 50 data elements that are arranged into five categories: Library Identification, Financial Information, Library Resources and Community Measure, Annual Use Figures, and Output Measures and Role Selection. Additionally, a sixth category cha nges from year to year (e.g., 1995 was Technology in Public Libraries, and 1994 was Children's Services Survey). Each category is formed by three parts: instruction, data elements, and summary table and comparison charts. Formulas used to derive numbers, notations used in summary tables, and the questionnaire used to collect these data are listed as appendixes. Software used for data manipulation in both U.S. systems include DECPLUS (Data Entry, Conversion, Table, Output Program), LOTUS, dBASE, and Fourth Dimensions.
Data elements used in the Chinese systems, as in the U.S. systems, cover basic resources (funding, building, and holdings) and key services of each public library, but unlike the U.S. systems, do not cover population of the community served. The 48 data elements grouped within 18 categories in PLSR, include library name, number of staff, annual circulation, number of seats, and great detail on c ollections and expenditures. With almost the same categories of data as PLSR, OCCPL has only 11 data elements in its 1989 publication. Methods of statistical analysis and techniques for comparing detailed percentages have not been used as much as the U.S. systems. Some data elements such as size of library facilities are useful and valuable to show how resources are allocated. To communicate the nature of service provided in China, the number of seats and size of reading rooms can be major indicators for these closed stack libraries. Opposed to this, the U.S. systems don't report these items because their stacks are open and seats do not appropriately express the use of libraries.
In particular, PLDS was initiated to play a role of measuring library output nationwide with uniform measurements. Five major measures adopted in PLDS include circulation per capita, registration as a percent of the population, library holdings per capita, collection turnover, and reference transactions per capita (Johnson, 1992). These had been identified as useful in promoting efficiency, cost effectiveness and increased comparability in public libraries by a number of contributors, such as DeProspo et al. (1973), Zweizig and Rodger (1982) and Van House et al. (1987). Systems designers who worked for both NCES and PLDS developed the national systems with the uniform measurements in order to make them a powerful tool for performance measures in public libraries nationwide.
The measurements reported in NCES also concentrate on uses and the services a library provides for its community. Its focus is "what a public library delivers to the community it serves" (Lynch, 1990). Example measures are percentages of registration of population and per registered borrower, in library use, rates of reference completion, and title filled. Facilities or non service related infor mation such as library funding and staff salaries is measured, but the emphasis is on effectiveness and efficiency of uses and the services a library provides to its community. Instances of these measurements include per capita holdings, per capital operating expenditures, and per capital library operating income.
Focuses of measures in Chinese systems are based on their management intention, which includes not only how well a library is used, but also how well a library is developed. PLSR was designed to determine investment of government resources in library development. Measurements are basically functioning the same as data elements. The main measures, such as number of seats and volumes, size of libr ary stacks and reading rooms, and annual book purchasing budget are examined and used to compare quantity and quality of library development. OCCPL was originated to play the role of measuring effective use of a library. But measuring each library's resource in order to study the use of library funds also plays an important role. The different focuses between the two countries' systems reflect so cial cultural backgrounds and level of library developments.
During 1992 to 1994, a national assessment of public library work was made in China. To give a series of national criteria to the appraisal, the Library Bureau of Ministry of Culture issued The Appraisal Indicator Series for Provincial Libraries (AISPL), and Appraisal Standards for City/County Libraries (ASCCL). The purpose of the national evaluation is to promote level of professional work and quality of library service, and to accelerate development of public librarianship nationwide. AISPL comprises six categories and seventy two indicators 55 quantitative indicators and 17 qualitative indicators. These indicators comprise aspects from library service, to professional work, to library facilities, and are intended to be employed as standardized performance criteria used for public libraries with different roles, such as provincial, city, county and children's libraries. A main feature of the assessment is the use of quantified measurements to promote library development by allowing comparability cross libraries on a number of dimensions. Over 2000 public libraries nationwide participated this activity. AS a result, 1144 libraries received awards and were designated as adv anced units at one of three levels. AISPL and ASCCL together with OCCPL comprise a complete professional system of performance measures for public libraries of all sizes and functions.
Because of the great differences between the data elements collected in the U.S. and in China, and between the services designs of each country, possibilities for comparing statistics indicating library operations between the countries' public libraries were extremely limited. Comparative totals or averages by per head between the two countries would be easy to see if the key source, community served, was originally included in China’s public library statistics. Interesting results that could indicate some features of Chinese public libraries compared to those in the U.S.A. at this writing may be seen from the following table:
Pubic libraries in the U.S. and China by population.
Table not available, please contact Author.
* Chinese data are from UNESCO Statistical yearbook, 1993 reported by China PLSR, and U.S. data are from NCES Public Libraries in the United States: 1993.
* In 1993, the population in China was 1,196,360,000; and in U.S. 261,052,000.
A very short and visible comparison came out from the above data on the two country library operations is that U.S. public libraries had more circulation with less staff number and smaller collection size per library compared to Chinese libraries. This reflects, in part, the emphasis on in-library use in Chinese libraries.
Table not available, please contact Author.
As a trend, the parallel systems in both countries, reflecting modern needs for statistics support of library performance measures, will continue to serve the management needs.
Efforts made by both governmental officers and library professionals in library statistics have been rewarded with the development of comprehensive statistical systems in both countries, in which statistics can be readily used for management to examine and appraise library characteristics. The system does not have the power to promote effectiveness and efficiency of library service on its own, b ut it does have the power to illuminate the policy of the service and to support the development of librarianship by means of statistics if they are appropriately used. The statistical systems used to examine library progress have evolved over time as a result of a variety of impulses and not as a result of a coherent strategy or plan.
Strengths of the US systems include sophisticated data manipulation, extensive standardization, and strong statistical analysis. Important library characteristics are represented well through statistical elements. Data reported are made easy for public to access. A weakness in NCES is the delay of at least two years in reporting data after collection. On the other hand, higher response rate in P LDS is only from libraries that serve large communities. Both Chinese systems have a lack of statistical analysis and information about the community served. The information shown in these systems in both countries has not been effectively used in research on library performance.
Further investigation. Social economic background is different for the two countries, but the needs for statistical information appears to be the same. Most functions of these statistical systems and their problems and issues faced are also not different. Questions that a system administrator may ask, including what data should be included and relation between cost and effectiveness of data coll ection, still remain. Understanding these systems' development and function is hampered by their being considered "inevitable" and "natural" when in fact they have developed to serve unstated but definable purposes. Study of two comparable systems from strongly contrasting cultures can reveal obscure characteristics and functions. Similarities and differences regarding the above categories can il luminate the inherent characteristics of the national systems, and will be worthwhile for understanding of the role and impact of nationwide library planning, evaluating, and service performance measures.
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