NSLA and ALIA-APLA release Australian public libraries statistical report 2021-2022

Canberra, 27 April: Statistics released today show Australians’ continued love affair with the public library, with almost 150 million books, ebooks, audiobooks and other resources borrowed across 2021-2022.

“It’s been amazing to see the adaptability of both library services and library users during the pandemic” says Chair of National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) Vicki McDonald.

“Thanks to librarians promoting alternate ways to borrow, from ebooks to click and collect, usage rates are growing from the initial pandemic shock to be only half a loan less than pre-pandemic times, despite repeated restrictions through this reporting period.”

There was a national average of 5.6 loans per capita across the country, with South Australians showing their love of reading, with almost 9 loans per capita.

The impact of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, including multiple lockdowns in many states and territories can be seen in the impact on physical visits, changing from around 111 million in pre-pandemic years to around 56 million in this reporting period.

For the first year data was collected on bookclubs (5,085), local history collections (488) and hours booked in meeting rooms/spaces (518,940). 

“The figures show the diverse range of services enjoyed and relied upon by the community” says Viv Barton, President of the Australian Public Library Alliance (ALIA-APLA)

“Whether it’s meeting others in your community and enjoying a book together, taking up family history or using the library facilities to create a business, work remotely or study, libraries are here for everyone.”

More than 3.5 million people participated in library programs across the reporting period, from literacy to digital inclusion and workforce development. Despite the demands on public libraries, funding and staffing have plateaued over the last decade.

“Healthy public libraries support healthy communities” says APLA-ALIA President Viv Barton.

“We have seen the incredible innovations from the sector to deliver services across changing periods. With increased need for library collections and programs, from childhood literacy to cyber-safety, now is the time to invest in our public libraries.”

Australian public library statistics have been compiled annually by National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) since the 1990s, using data supplied by the authority responsible for public library services in each state and territory.


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