Library Stat of the Week #6: Almost 2/3 of public libraries offer internet access globally. In Russia, over 27 000 public libraries do so!

Libraries have always been about access to information, in the present and into the future.

Traditionally – and of course this is what gave them their name – they were about books.

However, with a growing share of information now online – including from sources that used to be printed – internet access has, in many places, become a core part of the library ‘offer’ to users.

Libraries can bring particular strengths to this. Clearly, public internet access in itself provides a solution for people who do not have their own connection.

But it can be combined with other services, such as access to terminals, training, or wider support. Libraries can even act as nodes in wider connectivity schemes.

But how many libraries are already connected to the internet, and offering this possibility to their users?

Data from IFLA’s Library Map of the World allows us to start building an understanding of the situation, using latest available numbers.

For the moment, 30 countries from almost all world regions (only North America is missing) have submitted data about both the number of public libraries they have, and the number offering internet access.

Across this group, almost 2/3 (64%) of all public libraries offer internet access, with the largest single number being in Russia, with over 27 000.

In Europe, a number of countries have internet access in all public libraries, including Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Andorra and Finland. In Africa, 92% of Kenya and 84% of South African public libraries offer access. In Latin America, 89% of libraries in Saint Lucia do so, while in Asia, there are figures of 100% for Mongolian and 99% for Thai public libraries.

These figures help underline both the potential in some countries to use libraries as a network for digital public projects, as well as the need for investment in others.

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.

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