Libraries have traditionally been known as places which acquire, organise, conserve and lend material such as books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, manuscripts, musical scores, maps or prints.
A major part of their role has also been as a conduit to a wide variety of information, a role which is ever expanding as digital technology revolutionises the operations of libraries.
Increasingly, libraries provide Internet access allowing users to draw information from resources around the world. Many also operate web sites which enable those with their own Internet access to use the facilities of the library without the need to physically visit.
This chapter provides a statistical overview of aspects of Australia's public libraries. The data is drawn primarily from three ABS data sources: a survey of public libraries covering the period 1999-2000; a 2002 household survey which collected attendance figures for a range of cultural venues and events; and the 2001 Census of Population and Housing.
Unfortunately, while these data sources provide comprehensive statistics on public libraries, only limited school, college and university library data are available while business library information is non-existent.
Like libraries, archives have a role in permanently preserving unique records which have been selected because of their administrative, financial, legal or other information value.
The services provided by archives include the description and preservation of archival material as well as the provision of research and reference facilities. Some information on archives is also included in this chapter where available.