Even as the online world plays an ever more important role in our lives, there has been a growing recognition of the need for physical spaces where people can feel welcome and mix with others.
Public and community libraries offer just such a space, with dedicated staff and without any profit motive. As such, they can also be great platforms for partnerships, as well as shop-windows for other public services.
But how often are people visiting, on average? Library Map of the World data makes it possible to calculate this for 81 countries for at least one of the last three years.
We took figures for the number of visits to public libraries for the last year when data was available, and divided them by 2018 population figures from the World Bank.
What does this tell us?
Globally, Finland and Macao, China had the highest average public library visits per person per year (9.03 and 8.51), while Oceania is the highest placed region (5.02 visits per person per year), and North America the second (4.16).
Encouragingly, countries from four different regions appeared in the top ten (Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania).
These figures are likely to be conservative. For some countries, figures for numbers of visits are likely to be underestimates. We can expect, therefore, than in many countries, the number of recorded visits will rise. Furthermore, these figures are only for 81 countries – Oceania for example only has two reporting countries.
Finally, the number of visits per head doesn’t tell us everything. We can’t tell what people are doing in the library – how long they are spending there, what they are doing. Indeed, one of the strengths of libraries is the freedom given to users to choose how to use it.
However, once again, these figures can hopefully start a discussion, and demonstrate the levels of use that are possible.
Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.