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4172.0 - Arts and Culture in Australia: A Statistical Overview, 2008 (First Edition)  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/05/2008   
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FEATURE ARTICLE 4: LIBRARIES FACT SHEET


ON THIS PAGE

Introduction

What is a library?

How many libraries are there in Australia?

How many people go to libraries?

Are some people more likely to visit libraries than others?

How many books are held in public libraries?

What other services do libraries provide?

How many people work in libraries?

How are libraries funded?

More information

References


INTRODUCTION

This article presents information about Australia's public libraries. It specifically excludes libraries in universities, TAFE and schools, as well as research and specialist libraries in federal and state/territory government organisations and libraries in corporations and other non-government organisations.

Some information about school libraries, university and TAFE libraries, parliamentary libraries, and other special libraries are available from the following websites:


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WHAT IS A LIBRARY?

The Australian Culture and Leisure Classifications, 2001 (cat. no. 4902.0) defines libraries as places whose main activity is the acquisition, collection, conservation and loan of materials such as books, magazines, manuscripts, musical scores, recordings, maps or prints. Libraries also perform an information service role. Information and materials may be stored and accessed electronically.

The role of the public library is changing to cater for new ways of disseminating information and servicing technology literate clients. Increasingly, libraries are providing Internet access allowing users to draw information from resources around the world. Many also operate websites which enable the facilities of the library to be used without the need to physically on-site. According to Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 8146.0), 60% of Australian households had Internet access from home. The home was reported to be the most popular location for Internet use, with 57% of people aged 15 years or over accessing the Internet from home. Overall, 69% of people aged 15 years or over had accessed the Internet from various locations in the previous 12 months. The survey of Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities indicated that of the 2.7 million children aged 5 to 14 years, 65% had accessed the intent in the previous 12 months.

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HOW MANY LIBRARIES ARE THERE IN AUSTRALIA?

According to Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04 (cat. no. 8561.0) there were 532 local government libraries and 8 national and state libraries operating in Australia at the end of June 2004. The local government libraries operated from 1,716 locations, while the national and state libraries had a total of 17 locations. There were 6.6 million active registered borrowers in local government libraries in that year.

The scope of this survey excludes libraries in universities, TAFE and schools, as well as research and specialist libraries in federal and state/territory government organisations and libraries in corporations and other non-government organisations.

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HOW MANY PEOPLE GO TO LIBRARIES?

The publication Attendance at Selected Cultural and Leisure Venues and Events, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4114.0) reports that some 5.5 million people (34% of the population aged 15 years and over) visited a national, state or local library in the 12 months before interview. Unlike some of the other cultural institutions, public libraries regularly attract frequent repeat visitors. Almost three quarters (71%) who had visited libraries in the past 12 months had gone more than 5 times, and a quarter (24%) visited 2-4 times. The remaining 5% had only been once during the previous 12 months. This can be compared to museum attendance where 11% had been to museums more than 5 times, 39% visited 2-4 times and 50% had only been once during the previous 12 months. It can also be compared to attendance at art galleries where 17% had been to art galleries more than 5 times, 46% visited 2-4 times and 37% had only been once during the previous 12 months.

According to Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, April 2006 (cat. no. 4901.0), around 1.5 million children aged 5-14 years had visited a public library outside of school hours in the 12 months prior to interview.

The publication Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04 (cat. no. 8561.0) found that there were 105 million visits to local government, national and state libraries, representing an average of five visits per year per head of population. The number of visits includes visits from children and adults.

It is important to note the difference between the numbers of visitors as reported by the Attendance survey and the number of visits as reported by the Public Libraries survey. The Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events Survey collects data in relation to visitors and not visits. Data are collected about whether each respondent has visited a selected cultural event or venue in the past 12 months and, if so, how frequently they have visited. Regardless of how many times a respondent has visited a selected cultural venue or event in the 12 month reference period, they are counted as one visitor. This differs from the Public Libraries collection where a visit can count the same visitor returning numerous times. So, one person visiting libraries 10 times in 12 months would be counted as one visitor on the Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events Survey, but as 10 visits on the Public Libraries collection.

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ARE SOME PEOPLE MORE LIKELY TO VISIT LIBRARIES THAN OTHERS?

The survey of Attendance at Selected Culture and Leisure Venues and Events in 2005-06 estimated that attendance rates for males and females at state and national libraries were similar. However, local libraries were more likely to attract females than males, with 40% of females and only 25% of males saying that they had attended a local library in the previous 12 months. The attendance rate at national and state libraries was highest for younger people and older people, attracting 10% of those aged 18-24 years and 6% for 45-54 and 55-64 years. For local libraries, the survey results showed that the highest attendance rate was for those under 18, attracting 44% of those 15-17 year olds. This was closely followed by 36% of those aged 35-44 years old. Those in the older age groups were more likely to make multiple return visits. Around one-third (34%) of those aged 75 years and over who visited any public library went 26 times or more during the 12-month period.

A study into the characteristics of cultural attendees using 2002 data from the ABS General Social Survey (Cultural Ministers Council Statistics Working Group, 2006) found that the following characteristics were related to attendance at libraries:
  • Access to a computer at home: People without access to a computer were more likely to attend frequently than those with a computer at home.
  • Self assessed health status: People feeling in excellent or very good health were more likely to attend than people feeling in good or fair health, who were in turn more likely to attend than people feeling in poor health.
  • Contact with family and friends: People with at least weekly contact with family and friends were more likely to attend than people with less frequent contact.
  • Highest level of educational attainment: The more highly educated a person, the more likely they were to attend a library.
  • Females were more likely to attend than males of the same age group and males aged 35-44 years old were more likely to go to a library than males aged 18-24 years old. Females aged 55 years or over were more likely to frequently attend libraries than females aged 25-34 years and males aged 18-34 years.
  • People living NSW were least likely to a library.
  • Married people were more likely to go to a library than widowed people. Married people were also more likely to go to a library than people who have never married.
  • Families with dependent children were more likely to go libraries than couples with no children, families with non-dependent children and people living in group or lone person households.
  • Unemployed people and people not in the labour force were more likely to go to the library than employed people.
  • People working part-time (1-34 hours) were more likely to go to a library than people working full-time (35 hours or more a week).
  • People born in other main English-speaking countries (United Kingdom and Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, the United States of America and South Africa) were more likely to attend than people born in Australia.
  • People born in main English-speaking countries were more likely to attend than people born in non-main English speaking countries.
  • People in the most disadvantaged areas (those in the lowest Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) quintile) were more likely to attend frequently than people in highest SEIFA quintile. More information about SEIFA is available from Information Paper: Census of Population and Housing -- Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas, Australia, 2001 (cat. no. 2039.0)

More highly educated people were more likely to frequently go to a library. However it was mainly the characteristics of less advantaged people that were related to more frequent attendance - unemployed people and those not in the labour force, people without access to a computer, people living in the most disadvantaged areas according to SEIFA, and those who could not raise or didn't know if they could raise $2000 within a week were more likely to visit frequently.

Libraries were the only cultural venue included in the analysis where people with the ability to raise $2,000 within a week were not more likely to attend than people who could not raise $2,000 in a week. Both unemployed people and people who were not in the labour force were more likely to attend a library than employed people. This shows that libraries are an important resource for relatively disadvantaged people. They are less likely to be able to afford to buy their own books or own their own computer.

According to Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, April 2006 (cat. no. 4901.0), while the attendance rates at public libraries were higher for girls (58%) than boys (53%) they were similar for the different age groups (around 55%). Attendance rates for the states and territories ranged from 60% in South Australia to 50% in Tasmania. Children in couple families had an attendance rate of 56% compared with 50% for children in one-parent families.

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HOW MANY BOOKS ARE HELD IN PUBLIC LIBRARIES?

According to Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04 (cat. no. 8561.0) public libraries in Australia held a total of 52.8 million books and other library materials such as video and audio tapes and discs at the end of June 2004. About 39 million items were available as lending stock, of which 34.3 million were books. Lending stock is drawn solely from local libraries, which reported 176.2 million loans in 2003-04, 138.2 million of which were books.

Increasingly, libraries are introducing new technologies to ensure the public have access to information. In 2003-04, local libraries had 4,638 Internet workstations (or 3 per location), a 64% increase since 1999-2000. National and state libraries had increased their number of internet workstations from 173 (or 7 workstations per location) in 1999-2000 to 426 (or 25 workstations per location) in 2003-04.

Some library holdings can be viewed online. For example, the Collections Australia Network (CAN) is taking part in the Federated Open Search Project, which aims to enable web users to search the collections of Australian archives, galleries, libraries and museums through a single search. Currently, it is possible to search the online collections of AMOL, the Powerhouse Museum, Picture Australia and Libraries Australia via the CAN website at <www.collectionsaustralia.net>. The CAN website also enables web users to search the CAN Collections Database (consisting of collection records from over 80 CAN Partners).

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WHAT OTHER SERVICES DO LIBRARIES PROVIDE?

Libraries offer a number of recreational services. Some of these services include:
  • book clubs
  • discussion groups
  • IT training
  • help with preparing resumes
  • do-it-yourself workshops
  • workshops on researching family trees
  • story telling or craft activities for babies and children
  • hobbies - gardening, cooking, ceramics, woodworking, stamps, photography
  • reading rooms
  • free access to online subscription databases, and
  • free musical performances.

Many larger libraries also offer conference facilities and venues hire, and have a restaurant or café. Patrons can find out about activities at their library through council newsletters, or on the library website.

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HOW MANY PEOPLE WORK IN LIBRARIES?

The Census of Population and Housing collects data about occupation and industry for the main job for the week prior to Census Night. The 2006 Census found that there were 7,007 people working in the Libraries and archives industry as their main job. The Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) classification of Libraries and archives includes people working for archive organisations, but excludes people working for libraries located in educational institutions (e.g. university, TAFE and school libraries) and specialist libraries (e.g. those located in government departments and within business organisations). Of these 7,007 people, 75% were employed in a cultural occupation such as library assistant, librarian, library technician and archivist, and 25% were employed in non-cultural occupations.

The 2006 Census also identified 20,741 people working in a library-related occupation as their main job, but not employed in the Libraries and archives industry.

The ABS Survey of Work in Selected Culture and Leisure Activities enumerated in April 2007 provides another perspective on employment in libraries. This survey gives a better indication of the total number of people working in library organisations by providing information on those working in both a paid and unpaid capacity and those who are involved as part of a second job. It also distinguishes between people working in library organisations and people working in archives organisations.

The ABS Survey of Work in Selected Culture and Leisure Activities examined work involvement in cultural activities, including libraries, over a 12 month period. The longer reference period for this survey makes it more likely to capture those persons working in a cultural occupation on an irregular basis than either the one-week reference period of the Census or the end-of-June snapshot provided by the Public Libraries survey.

As reported in Work in Selected Culture and Leisure Activities, Australia, April 2007 (cat. no. 6281.0) there were 108,484 people aged 15 years and over who had some work involvement in a library in the 12 months to April 2007, of whom 35,881 (33%) received some payment.

According to Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04 (cat. no. 8561.0), at the end of June 2004, there were 10,606 staff employed in local government libraries and 1,865 employed in national and state libraries. Some 42% of those employed in local government libraries were permanent full-time workers while 76% of those employed in national and state libraries were permanent full-time workers. As well as those employed in libraries, a further 6,315 people volunteered in local government libraries in June 2004 and the number of volunteers working in national and state libraries was 416.

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HOW ARE LIBRARIES FUNDED?

The report Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04 (cat. no. 8561.0) found that libraries are heavily reliant on government funding for their operation. In 2003-04, 93% of their total income of $839m came from government sources. Other sources of income included services to clients, which generated $30.3m (3.6%) and fundraising which generated $7.5m (0.9%). The total expenses of public libraries in 2003-04 were $852.8m, of which $447.7m (53%) were labour costs. Other major expenses were purchases of library materials, and repairs and maintenance.

The publication Cultural Funding by Government, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4183.0) provides the most recent information on government funding for libraries. Data from the collection showed that the Australian Government increased funding for public libraries from $120.1m in 2004-05 to $134.1m in 2005-06, an increase of 11.6%. State and territory government funding increased by 10.8% over the same period, from $398.6m to $441.7m.

Substantial funding of libraries also occurs at the local government level. The ABS publication Cultural Funding by Government, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4183.0) reported that the total amount of local government funding in New South Wales was $330.2m. While a more detailed breakdown of local government funding was not collected in the survey of Cultural Funding by Government, data is available from other administrative sources. According to Public Library Statistics 2005/06 Public Library Services in New South Wales, total NSW local government expenditure on public library services was $259.4m.

Similarly, Cultural Funding by Government, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4183.0) reports that local governments in Victoria provided $245.4m in total cultural funding. According to the Annual Survey of Public Library Services in Victoria, 2005-06, total Victorian local government expenditure on public library services was $108.4m.

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MORE INFORMATION

The National Library of Australia has a web portal called Libraries Australia <librariesaustralia.nla.gov.au> which provides access to the public to search over 39 million resources held in Australian libraries and other collecting institutions. This allows users locate the object (book, journal, papers, etc.), and access resources which are available immediately online.

Other web-based resources available include the Australian Libraries Gateway (ALG) <www.nla.gov.au/libraries/index.html> which is a free directory service with access to up-to-date and reliable information about more than 5,400 libraries, their collections and services. Their aim is to be the “one-stop-shop” for information about Australian libraries, being updated by the libraries themselves. The Gateway has been developed on behalf of the Australian library community by the National Library of Australia.

The Collections Australia Network website at <www.collectionsaustralia.net> allows users to search for cultural heritage institutions, including libraries, based on location or sector. The website also allows users to search for archives, botanic, cultural, gallery, heritage, museum, professional/service organisation or zoo/aquaria.

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REFERENCES

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events, Australia, 2005-06, cat. no. 4114.0, ABS, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006, cat. no. 1292.0, ABS, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Culture and Leisure Classifications, 2001, cat. no. 4902.0, ABS, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Cultural Funding by Government, Australia, 2005-06, cat. no. 4183.0, ABS, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Employment in Culture, Australia, 2006, cat. no. 6273.0, ABS, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2005-06, cat. no. 8146.0, ABS, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Information Paper: Census of Population and Housing - Socio-economic Indexes for Areas, Australia, 2001, cat. no. 2039.0, ABS, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04, cat. no. 8561.0, ABS, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Work in Selected Culture and Leisure Activities, Australia, April 2007, cat. no. 6281.0, ABS, Canberra.

Cultural Ministers Council Statistics Working Group, The Social and Demographic Characteristics of Cultural Attendees, October 2006, prepared for CMCSWG by the NCCRS of the ABS, published by CMCSWG <http://www.culturaldata.gov.au>.

Local Government Victoria, Annual Survey of Public Library Services in Victoria, 2005-06, viewed 21 September 2007, <www.dvc.vic.gov.au>.

State Library of New South Wales, Public Library Statistics, 2005-06, viewed 21 September 2007, <www.sl.nsw.gov.au>.

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