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Chicago Public Library Ranked #2 in the World in Heinrich Heine University Study

The Chicago Public Library ranked first amongst American urban public libraries in a study by German scholars, “Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society: Core Services of Libraries in Informational World Cities.” The Vancouver Public Library and the Bibliothèques Publiques de Montréal tied for first place and the Chicago Public Library ranked second-best on the list of the thirty-one best urban public libraries in the world.

On a 150-point scale, the Vancouver and Montreal Public Libraries both scored 129. The other public libraries were, respectively, San Francisco, Shanghai, Toronto, Singapore, New York, Vienna, New York, Shenzhen, Boston, Barcelona, Beijing, Paris, Helsinki, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Berlin, Melbourne, Amsterdam, Munich, Stockholm, Sao Paulo, Milan, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Tokyo, Sydney, Frankfurt, London, and Dubai.

The authors of the study were Agnes Mainka, Sarah Hartmann, Lisa Orszullok, Dr. Isabella Peters, Anika Stallmann and Professor Wolfgang G. Stock. The others are members of the Research Staff in the Department of Information Science, while Prof. Stock is Head of the Department of Information Science at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf.

The researchers considered these major public libraries to have two aspects: digital and physical. Thus, they weighed the virtues of each organization as a Digital Library and as a Physical Library.

They considered the core services of each Digital Library to be its Web site; Web-OPAC; e-resources (e-Books, digital images, videos, music, audio books); in-library digitization of documents; whether e-resources are free to library patrons; provision of digital reference services; use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter; and provision of apps (applications for digital devices. [The term OPAC stands for online public access (card) catalog.] In non-English-speaking countries, the Web site and Web-OPAC had to be both in the native language and in English.

The authors noted two libraries offered the full spectrum of digital services they considered. “Particular emphasis must be placed on the Capital Library Beijing and the Boston Public Library, which offer all e-resources analyzed in this study in their digital libraries.”

National Library, Singapore was the most active user of Twitter. Forty-five percent of the libraries had their own YouTube channels and The New York Public Library was the most active with 3,000 videos (posting an average if two per day).

For the Physical Library, they were interested in whether the central library was a landmark. They wanted to know if it provided spaces for (adults and teenagers) to study, meet, and work, and does it have spaces for children? Are the spaces attractive? Did the libraries have cafes? Further, they evaluated the use of RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology, events and programs, the ability of library patrons to return borrowed books or other media to any location, the provision of Wi-Fi, and each library’s marketing strategies.

An analysis revealed that 77% of the libraries had meeting spaces, 87% had learning spaces, and 97% of the libraries had dedicates spaces for children. Shenzhen Library had an entire library for children.

Only 45% of the libraries provided some place to snack. The researchers wrote, “Regarding spaces, we would like to single out the National Library of Singapore, which combines most of the presented core physical library services.”

Over 70% of the libraries provide Wi-Fi. Notably, the National Library of Singapore does not because the whole city-state has Wi-Fi.

The paper was published on November 29, 2013. It can take a while for information to travel from academia to journalism.

Huffington Post broke the story that the Vancouver and Montreal Public Libraries tied for first place on December 19, 2014. Hector Tobar repeated this news in the Los Angeles Times on December 20th and pointed out the Los Angeles Public Library came in 16th.

He wrote, “Two U.S. library systems finished third and fourth: Chicago and San Francisco. And the very bottom of the rankings were London (30th) and Dubai (31st).”

ABC-7, FOX 32, and sister media outlets the Chicago Tribune and WGN all reported that the Chicago Public Library had been ranked first amongst urban libraries in the U.S. on Monday, January 20, 2014. The FOX-32 story cited a Sun-Times Media Wire story, as did WFTC in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

According to FOX-32 and WFTC, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, "This report adds to the volume of research recognizing the leading global role that [the] Chicago Public Library has taken in leveraging technology to enhance library services and underscores the fact that Chicago is recognized internationally as a world-class city." I have not found any such press release on the Web sites of either the Office of the Mayor or the Chicago Public Library.

The history of Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf begins in 1907 with the establishment of a medical school. The Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia founded the university as such in 1965, with the addition of the Faculty of Mathematics & Natural Sciences, and the Faculty of Arts & Humanities to the existent Faculty of Medicine.

The university adopted the name Heinrich Heine in 1988 in honor of Christian Johann Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), a famous poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic. Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf added two more faculties in the 1990s: the Faculty of Business and Economics and the Faculty of Law. Roughly 1,700 lecturers and 900 other employees serve a student body of approximately 26,000.

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