Geospatial Analysis

Localized geospatial statistics can be critical to understanding library service area dynamics. The maps below can help more precisely identify how different communities use the public library, neighborhoods that may be most suitable for expanding services, and trends in population patterns.

Socioeconomic Comparisons

Demographic and socioeconomic information about patrons' communities can provide insights about populations that may be underserved, areas of potential growth, and how library services can be targeted to better meet particular neighborhoods.

Census Tract (Neighborhood)
Library Use Information            
    Avg Weekly Checkouts6501,4353453717547765854766891,012269439
    Active patrons1,3612,7797897961,5671,8021,1411,4511,2731,884606856
    Total population4,9498,2971,6782,2193,3846,1372,0403,6733,2694,4035,6862,029
    Patrons per capita28%33%47%36%46%29%56%39%39%43%11%42%
    Patrons with e-mail1,1752,4596736281,3421,5709931,2351,1131,615572779
Household Information            
    Avg household size2.52.252.341.781.932.351.791.932.442.271.932.25
    % Family households78%54%67%35%35%52%41%24%73%54%44%54%
    % Kindergarten or preschool11%7%0%19%3%6%12%2%23%6%1%3%
    % Elem. school, grades K-843%31%50%22%18%21%12%8%42%36%2%15%
    % High school, grades 9-1224%7%33%18%6%10%7%2%17%14%0%7%
Census Tract (Neighborhood)
Socioeconomic Information            
    Median Age45.327.746.933.331.627.930.925.342.933.219.724.3
    % 18 years and over76%80%80%83%89%85%88%92%77%78%96%85%
    % 62 years and over17%7%19%16%12%10%13%6%24%11%0%4%
    % In labor force61%81%65%69%83%81%72%76%61%73%46%69%
    % Unemployed5%10%10%4%6%4%5%3%4%4%16%6%
    Median per capita income$41,256$26,343$38,868$18,990$26,173$26,268$44,901$19,284$44,700$35,813$6,836$25,634
    % Less than $15,0007%8%11%31%13%9%16%18%6%8%36%12%
    % $15,000-$34,99911%22%5%27%41%22%23%41%7%18%37%30%
    % $35,000-$74,99934%39%53%32%27%36%33%30%27%41%22%26%
    % $75,000-$149,00031%28%19%9%17%27%21%9%41%24%5%26%
    % $150,000 or more17%3%13%1%3%6%8%2%20%10%0%6%
    No vehicles0%6%9%11%7%1%8%3%3%2%7%0%
    1 vehicle8%28%21%36%48%31%42%49%15%33%62%32%
    2 vehicles53%53%36%36%29%38%33%35%50%44%23%56%
    3 or more vehicles40%13%35%17%16%31%17%13%32%22%9%13%

Time Series Statistics

Time series plots provide insights about trends and events in time. They can be helpful in understanding periods during the year when library services are most and least used and how these patterns differ across neighborhoods. While each graph shows that there is some variability in checkouts from one week to the next, these variations occur around a relatively consistent checkout value within each neighborhood. Periods during which substantial deviations away from the average occurred are highlighted and generally correspond to major events related to public schools, such as the beginning of a school year and extended holiday breaks.

The Project Story

The Bozeman Public Library Geostatistics Project is a product of a collaborative effort among economists at Montana State University and the Bozeman public library. The project was supported by funding from the National Leadership Grants for Libraries program, administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The project's goal is to provide a data-driven approach for more precisely identifying trends, changes, and opportunities for growth in patrons' use of public library resources. This includes dividing a library system's service area into neighborhoods to obtain a more detailed understanding of geographical locations that may be underserved or where there is greatest potential for growth, having greater insights about periods when library services are in greatest demand and how these trends changed over time, and pinpointing information resources that are most and least important to a library's patrons.

Often, as was the case with the Bozeman public library (BPL), libraries already have much of the information necessary to gain a deeper understanding of their patrons' changing demands for information resources. The challenge was organizing the large quantity of data in a way that made these data easily accessible, allowed administrative decisions to be made quickly and accurately, and preserved patron privacy. The project team designed specialized software that confidentially identified and sorted patrons into their respective geographical neighborhoods and presented only neighborhood-level use statistics. While these aggregated statistics do not reveal information about any particular patron, they offer an immensely greater level of library use information than a single, annually-calculated value for the entire library system.

The success of the Bozeman Public Library Geostatistics Project indicates that there are significant benefits to public libraries from gaining a more precise geospatial understanding of their patrons' demands for information resources. The long-term objective is to investigate how these methods can be applied to both larger and smaller library systems in Montana and the United States. By providing library administrators technology to quickly and easily assess opportunities for their libraries, these community anchor institutions can become more effective and efficient distributors of knowledge in the 21st century.

Montana State University, Dept. of Agricultural Economics and Economics Bozeman Public Library Institute of Museum and Library Services

Contact Information

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E: anton.bekkerman at
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