ST 35/10: How many Nordic libraries?

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It sounds so easy, but is actually quite difficult.

Counting libraries, that is. Different countries have different concepts and practices. Even within the Nordic area, the data submitted to IFLA differ a lot – and include some glaring errors.

Below I reproduce the information from the IFLA World Report 2010  – and add a few comments (in italics). It is clear that the data can not be used for comparative purposes, since the counting procedures differ from country to country. And these are countries that have some of the best library statistics in the world.

The statisticians at IFLA have quite a bit of work to do ….

Resources

Denmark

Estimated number of public libraries in country

  • Estimated number of public libraries in the country: 510
    • Source: The Danish Agency for Libraries and Media: Official Statistics 2008

There are 510 public libraries in Denmark, according to the Danish Agency for Libraries and Media’s official statistics for 2008. This number includes 97 main libraries, 380 branch libraries and 33 book mobiles. There is, in addition, an unknown and currently modest number of smaller service points – a new development following the Local Government Reform in 2007.

  • Should smaller service points be counted as libraries or not?

Estimated number of research libraries in country

  • University research libraries: 280
  • School libraries: 1.600-1.700
    • Source for the number: The Municipal Association of School Libraries (All publicly financed schools must have a school library)
  • Government funded research libraries: 185

The Danish Agency for Libraries and Media’s official statistics for 2008 gives the number of university libraries in the country as 280, comprising 185 research libraries and 95 university institute libraries.

The Danish Agency for Libraries and Media (http://www.bibliotekogmedier.dk) falls under the Ministry of Culture and is the central government organ for libraries and media. It handles a number of administrative tasks in relation to libraries, including administration of the Act regarding library services. Likewise, the agency deals with development tasks pertaining to libraries’ activities and administers a number of subsidy schemes.

There are an estimated 1 600-1 700 school libraries in Denmark – a figure supplied by the Municipal Association of School Libraries. All publicly financed schools in Denmark are supposed to have a school library.

There are 185 government-funded research libraries, according to 2008 statistics provided by the Danish Agency for Libraries and Media. Of these, 39 libraries are specifically included in the 2000 Act pertaining to Library Services.

  • The 95 university institute libraries are probably branch libraries – not independent adminitrative units.
  • Have the 185 government funded research libraries been counted twice, maybe?
  • Denmark must have statistics showing the number of publicly financed schools
  • But do all schools actually have functioning libraries – even though they are obliged to?

Finland

Estimated number of public libraries in country

There are 384 main public libraries, with a total of 449 branch libraries. The source for these figures is the 2008 statistics of the Ministry of Education .

  • I assume that the total number of library outlets is 384 + 449 = 831

Estimated number of research libraries in country

There is no information available on school libraries in Finland, although small school libraries do exist. In most cases, schools are served by the public libraries. There are 22 university research libraries and 103 government research libraries or administrative units. The source of these figures is 2008 statistics of the National Library of Finland.

  • Here we find administrative units – and no information about branches. Comparisons with Denmark and Norway are not possible.

Greenland

Estimated number of public libraries in country
  • Estimated number of public libraries in the country:  19
    • Source for the number:  Library website, which has a list of public libraries in Greenland

The country has 19 public libraries, two more than in 2007.

Estimated number of research libraries in country

  • University research libraries:  1
    • Source for the number:  Groenlandica and university library in one
  • School libraries:  22
    • Source for the number:  Library website
  • Government funded research libraries:  1
    • Source for the number:  Groenlandica is funded by the government since it is the national library

Groenlandica is the only university research library in Greenland. In Nuuk, there are three libraries associated with schools. The rest are public libraries that also serve as school libraries, as they are located in very small communities. Groenlandica appears to serve both as a university and a national library, and therefore also as a government research library, as it is funded by the government. (In 2007, 25 school libraries were indicated, but it might be that this figure included the public libraries serving as school libraries.)

Iceland

Estimated number of public libraries in country

There has been a decrease in the number of public libraries in Iceland, from 93 in 2007, to 73 in 2009 (http://www.landskerfi.is/adilar/adilaskra.php?rod=ADM_Code).

Estimated number of research libraries in country

—————–

  • Does Iceland have more government funded research libraries than Sweden?
  • Hardly – these numbers must include branch libraries.

Norway

Estimated number of public libraries in country

  • 807 + 34 mobile libraries
    • Source: The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority

Since the 2007 Report, the number of public libraries in Norway has increased to 841, with 807 public libraries and 34 mobile libraries (according to the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority). It is assumed that these mobile libraries fulfill the functions of public libraries.

Estimated number of research libraries in country

  • University research libraries: 322
    • Source for the number: The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority
  • School libraries: 2, 783
    • Source for the number: The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority
  • Government funded research libraries: Unknown
    • Source for the number: The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Reasearch

University research libraries showed an increase from 320 in 2007, to 322 in 2009, whereas school libraries decreased substantially from 3 196 in 2007, to 2 783 in 2009. (The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority was indicated as the source of these figures.) As in 2007, the respondent did not provide the number of government-funded research libraries in Norway,  only stating that according to the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, most research libraries are funded by the government.

  • The number provided (807) is the number of branches – including main libraries (431), but excluding mobile units (34) – in 2007.
  • Data come from Statistikk for arkiv, bibliotek og museum 2007 published by The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority in 2008.
  • In Finland, the number of main libraries (independent units) and the number of branches (excluding main libraries) are given separately
  • The number of independent public library systems (430) is – in any case – more relevant than the number of branches
  • About one third of the 807 public libraries – mainly branch libraries – also serve as school libraries..
  • The total number of school libraries i 2007 was substantially higher than 2783. The number 2783 is the sum of
    • the number of secondary school libraries: 388 schools
    • the number of libraries reported from primary schools: 2395
    • but the Authority also added – in a note to Table 8 (p. 70) –  that 17% of the existing school libraries did not provide statistics
    • a more correct number is therefore: 388 + 2395 *(100%/83%) =  3274
    • this number includes, however, about 270 public library branches that will be counted twice ….
  • The figure 322 for university research libraries (service points) is far too high. The correct number is 153.
  • The mistake was to use total number of service points for all academic and special libraries, which is 322.
  • The number of main university (and university college) libraries was 58
  • The number of government funded research libraries – here listed as unknown – is actually published every year. The 2007 value was 146 units (service points).
  • To find the number, however, one must use Statistics Norway (Table 236 in the Statistical yearbook for 2007) rather than the yearbook from the Authority

Sweden

Estimated number of public libraries in country

  • Estimated number of public libraries in the country: 2, 090
    • Source for the number: Swedish Arts Council (Statens kulturråd)

Sweden has an estimated 2 090 public libraries, including 290 main libraries and 1 001 branch libraries. The estimation is based on figures provided by the National Arts Council. (In 2007, an estimated 1 348 public libraries were reported.)

Estimated number of research libraries in country

  • University research libraries: 38
    • Source for the number: National Library of Sweden/Statistics Sweden
  • School libraries: About 4, 000
    • Source for the number: Swedish Arts Council (Statens kulturråd)
  • Government funded research libraries: 34
    • Source for the number: National Library of Sweden/Statistics Sweden

Sweden has 38 university research libraries and 34 government-funded research libraries (figures provided by the National Library of Sweden and Statistics Sweden). Unlike in 2007, when 4 300 school libraries were reported, the figure is now given as approximately 4 000 school libraries (based on figures provided by the National Arts Council).

  • A public library increase from 1348 libraries in 2007 to more than two thousand in 2009 (?) is hardly possible …
  • The number of public libraries combines main libraries (290) and branches (1001). But the numbers do not add up to 2090 …
  • The number of university research libraries – on the other hand – does not include branch libraries.
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4 Responses to “ST 35/10: How many Nordic libraries?”

  1. jro Says:

    Very valid comments!

    Definitions of what a library, a branch library, a service point etc. are, differ fairly commonly in the literature. However, it seems to me that the data were supplied by official respondents from the countries (except possibly in the case of Iceland, where the respondent requested to remain anonymous), and in most cases they (most probably the respondents?) quoted the sources from which they got the data. Where do the discrepancies then come from?

    It seems to me that the report does not want to compare these numbers in any detail in any case; see the Anaylsis & conclusions, section 2.2, p. 9 – “A superficial comparison indicates that library numbers have remained fairly constant during the past two years, with, on average, limited growth or decline. In a few cases numbers differed fairly substantially (I assume this refers to the numbers submitted by respondents to the previous report in 2007 – jro), but this seems to be linked to different respondents or more updated statistics being available. These numbers are not further analysed.”

    So, the report seems to me to have simply reported the data that the respondents provided….

  2. plinius- Says:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I agree. In the World Report, what is needed is more work with the data – adding value to the “raw” reprting from the associations. The phrasing of the Report shows, I think, that the editors are aware of this.

    As a statistician, I see the World Report as valuable because it provides a space where we can start discussing issues related to definitions, procedures and interpretation of library statistics – in a real world context.

    The Report was not designed as a report on statistics, and the Statistics and Evaluation Section (where I represent Norway) has not been involved in the editing as far as I know.

    At the moment, only the number of libraries is included. It is quite interesting to see how such a seemingly trivial question immediately brings up issues of principle and of data quality that must be faced in order to use the statistics in a meaningful way.

    I hope the Report will aim at a gradual expansion of its statistical coverage, along the (broad) lines of the Global statistics project that the section recently completed. It is very important to anchor such projects in continuing work with real data.

    In the meantime I am trying to collect, process and present some data from some countries – based on what’s available on the web – on my blog Plinius (see Plinius Data).

  3. P 47/11 « Plinius Says:

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  4. ST 14/12: IFLA report on Norwegian statistics « Global statistics for advocacy Says:

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