When Virginia is taken as a whole and library input measures are compared to those of other states, the Old Dominion State looks average. Fiscal year (FY) 2003 statistics (the most recent comprehensive statistics available) show Virginia ranking 25th among the states in operating income per capita, 27th on materials expenditures per capita and 29th on total staff per 25,000 population. On the "output" side the Commonwealth ranks 30th in visits per capita, but, in what should be considered a tribute to hard working library staff members across the State, 15th in circulation per capita.
However, a closer examination reveals that characterizing Virginia’s performance on common measures of library service as "average" is somewhat misleading. Although the statewide operating income per capita is $ 28.41, the annual statistics reported by Virginia libraries for FY 2004 shows that income per capita for library operations ranged from $ 8.25 to $ 136.72. While the statewide average is 8.48 circulations per capita, this measure varied among Virginia libraries from 1.26 items per person to 28.72 items per person.
The wide variation in both input and output measures raises questions regarding both the quality of library services offered in some libraries and the equity of library and information services offered across the Commonwealth.
The following report organizes the findings and recommendations growing out of this study into four major categories. They are quality of public library services, equity of access to quality public library services, funding, and advocacy/public awareness.
The recommendations are designed to provide an outline for actions that would result in improved public library services for all Virginians. If implemented, the consultants believe that they would ensure that the "Commonwealth’s public libraries are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century as valued community resources responsive to the rapid change in technology and society." If the recommendations are ignored, it is our opinion that the gap between the high performing and the marginal libraries in the State will grow and that an increasing number of Virginians will be deprived of a valuable resource that can help them succeed in school, on the job, and in their daily lives.