America’s Star Libraries: The LJ Index of Public Library Service

With Ray Lyons, Keith proposed the LJ Index in a 2008 article solicited and published by Library Journal. Access it at:

Ray and Keith collaborated on this project through the ninth edition in 2016.  Ray passed away unexpectedly and far too soon on May 14, 2017.  Since the tenth edition in 2017, Keith has pursued the project on a solo basis.

To receive an LJ Index score, a public library must meet four criteria:

  • Meet the IMLS definition of a public library
  • Have a legal service area population of at least 1,000
  • Have annual operating expenditures of at least $10,000
  • Report all seven per-capita statistics on which the score is based: visits, total circulation, circulation of electronic materials (added in the 2016 edition), successful retrievals of electronic information (added in the 2020 edition), public Internet computer use, Wifi sessions (added in the 2019 edition), and program attendance.

As of 2020, there are also outlier criteria that exclude libraries from consideration as Star Libraries if one of those statistics is more than 3 standard deviations from its spending peer average and the associated standard score accounts for half or more of the raw index score.

Libraries are scored in nine categories of annual operating expenditures, based on their relationship to their category’s average on each statistic.

Since 2009, there have been 11 editions of America’s Star Libraries, the annual announcement of LJ Index results and the Star Library ratings based on them.  All editions from 2011 forward remain available on the LJ website.

For answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) for the LJ Index and its Star Library ratings, see:

Keith is available to help your library—or group of libraries, or state—get the most out of the LJ Index project. If you are interested in exploring the options, contact Keith at