Wednesday, 5 October 2011

National Public Library Statistics

The PLS Standing Committee met yesterday.  Among the papers it considered was the just released Australian Public Libraries Statistical Report for 2009 -2010.

The report is about to be loaded to the Intranet (where previous year's reports already reside), and is already available on the NSLA site here.  Some interesting features from an SA perspective include:
  • Loans showed growth over 4 years, but dropped back in 09/10, perhaps due to several larger busy libraries being closed for extended periods for rebuilds.  We'll need to keep an eye on this figure!
  • SA continues to have the highest loans per capita of any state or territory (11) and the highest visits per capita (7.3)
  • Funding per capita is highest in SA - over $9 above the national average, and over $6 higher than the next highest funded State.
  • Expenditure on library materials is slightly above the national average.
  • Expenditure on electronic resources is below the national average, and the second lowest in Australia
  • The number of public Internet PCs has increased by 62% over the last 5 years, and SA is now ranked second, and well above average.  (This may explain some of the congestion and Internet speed issues that PLS is currently looking for solutions to.)
  • For states where there are comparable arrangements where State Governments are co-funders of libraries with Local Governments, the SA State Government's contribution is a significantly higher contribution than in other States (at 24% of total expenditure).
  • While the public library collections across the state are large (4.58M) and provide high numbers of items per capita (2.86) only 32% of the collection has been bought in the last 5 years.  This is the lowest replacement rate of any jurisdiction in Australia.
Of course averages, medians and means mask local variations for individual library services. So for the curious, it may be interesting to measure your service against both the SA and national averages.

One measure which I expect to see significant movement on in the next couple of years is the number and percentage of people who are active library members.  SA reports a figure of 53%, which is the highest in Australia, and 8% above the national average.  However all libraries count this figure by adding together all registered borrowers and dividing this by the population.  The advent of a shared LMS will see each library member only being counted once!  So those library users with 3 cards will be counted once, not three times in the future.  I can see our figures dropping substantially, but we can then report an accurate figure, with no double (or triple) counting!

Of course statistics are only one measure of how libraries perform, but they are one indicator of how things stand.  These figures seem to indicate that SA public libraries continue to have high recognition and use by our customers, and are relatively well funded by both funding partners.


  1. hi Geoff - Do we have any figures on the number of people having multiple cards?

  2. Hi Craig - no we don't have any empirical data, but some anecdotal and indicative information.

    Anecdotally and from listening to library customers we know that a number of people have multiple cards.

    And indicatively we have figures for places like the City of Adelaide with about 68,000 borrowers on a population of about 18,000 people. We also know from federal data collection about the number of non-resident borrowers that smaller, closer together councils have higher numbers of non-resident users than larger or more isolated councils. How many of the people who are using libraries outside their council of residence also have a card for their local library is unknown.

    As we do data conversions for each council joining the LMS we will be able to do some de-duplicating of customers. So retrospectively we will be able to report on the level of multi-memberships - but at this stage we're working on anecdotes, indicators and assumptions - which is not ideal, but it is all we have at present.