The Canadian Library Association (CLA) is pleased to launch the National Statistical and Values Profile of Canadian Libraries.
CLA Executive Council, under past-President Karen Adams, commissioned this research to provide CLA members with a current comprehensive overview of the activities of libraries in Canada. The statistics are supported by a compilation of statements from a wide variety of sources on the value that Canada’s libraries bring to society. This research will provide much needed support, in the form of both statistics and testimonials, for CLA’s advocacy initiatives.
Many thanks to Dr Alvin Schrader and Michael Brundin for their work to compile this report.
National Statistical and Values Profile of Canadian Libraries
National Statistical and Values Profile of Canadian Libraries
Alvin M. Schrader and Michael R. Brundin
November 30, 2012
Introduction and Background
We are pleased to submit this final report to CLA Executive Council on the project National Statistical and Values Profile of Canadian Libraries. The report consists of an Executive Summary of findings and methodologies for each of the two principal components of the project—library statistics and library value—together with corresponding detailed appendices, the national statistical profile and the national values profile, that are intended to serve as “raw data” for future analysis, synthesis, review, discussion, refinement, and advocacy efforts.
Early in 2012 the CLA Executive Council endorsed a new mission for the Association as “the national public voice for Canada’s library communities”:
- We champion library values and the value of libraries.
- We influence public policy impacting libraries.
- We inspire and support learning.
- We collaborate to strengthen the library community.
This project was prompted in part by apprehension about how well the library community could speak to the value of libraries in the face of cuts to Library and Archives Canada, federal government libraries, and school libraries in various provincial jurisdictions, as well as in the face of burgeoning Internet-based sources of both free and “pay-per-view” information.
Prior to the adoption of CLA’s new mission in early 2012, the 2011 transitional Executive Council had become concerned about the absence of national Canadian data supporting the role that the library profession plays in communities, education, government, and business, as well as about the absence of a Canadian document addressing the “value proposition” of Canadian libraries. At the initiative of CLA President Karen Adams, Executive Council approved a contract in June 2012 to gather available statistical information on specified measures of interest and to create a value propositions profile.
The goal of the project was to produce a Canadian snapshot of library data and library meaning for use in CLA’s national advocacy role with elected officials at every level of public affairs, community leaders, government policy makers, and library partners including library user communities and the general public. Information from the report will also be shared on the CLA Web site for all to use selectively as judged relevant to local advocacy and marketing efforts.
Executive Summary: National Statistical Profile
No national statistical profile of library investments and activities has been assembled since the National Core Library Statistics Program (NCLSP), sponsored by the former National Library of Canada, was abandoned in the early 2000s; the last statistical report was for 1999 data, subsequently published in 2002 as National Core Library Statistics Program: Statistical Report, 1999: Cultural and Economic Impact of Libraries on Canada in English and French.
Unlike the NCLSP, the current project relied exclusively on the availability of secondary sources of data already collected by other national, regional, and provincial agencies and library consortia, which in part explains why somewhat fewer measures for the school library sector are reported, and the special library sector is not represented at all except for three “national special” libraries (Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information [CISTI], Library and Archives Canada [LAC], and the Library of Parliament [LofP]). Together, special libraries made up an estimated 3,000 libraries (service points) in 2010 (based on a figure of 3,020, which includes an unstated number of small archives, from the 2010–2011 edition of Libraries Canada; the NCLSP report for 1999 accounted for 2,262 special libraries with 2,549 service points).
It is important, therefore, for readers to be cognizant of which specific library sector or sectors any particular library measure pertains. None of the measures documented in this report represents the entire universe of Canadian libraries; as noted above, excluded are special libraries, with the exception of three national special libraries. Most of the reported measures are available only for public and academic libraries; the report and accompanying spreadsheet are very careful in specifying applicable sector coverage.
A snapshot of public, academic, national special, and school libraries in Canada for the latest available reporting year of 2010 (for most of the data) reveals the following patterns of usage, assets, and investments:
- 360 million visits were made in person to public, academic, and school libraries across Canada
- 164 million visits were to public libraries
- 88 million visits were to academic libraries
- 108 million visits were to school libraries
- 69 million electronic database sessions were conducted by library users in public, academic, and national special libraries across Canada
- 18 million sessions by public library users
- 31 million sessions by academic library users
- 20 million sessions by national special library users
- 590 million publications were borrowed for off-site use or consulted on site by library users in public, academic, national special (CISTI, LAC, LofP), and school libraries across Canada (including more than 5 million interlibrary loan transactions, both to and from institutions)
- 362 million uses of public library items, of which 15% were on site
- 33 million uses of academic library items, of which 24% were on site
- 168,000 uses of national special library items, of which 37% were on site
- 194 million uses of school library items (off-site only)
- 478 million publications, both print and electronic, were owned or leased by public, academic, national special, and school libraries across Canada
- 101 million items by public libraries
- 212 million items by academic libraries
- 60 million items by national special libraries
- 105 million items by school libraries
- 25 million questions were asked by library users in all public and academic libraries across Canada
- 21.8 million questions by public library users
- 3.6 million questions by academic library users
- 8 million library users attended 386,000 programs held by public and academic libraries across Canada
- 7 million attended 351,000 public library programs
- 1 million attended 35,000 academic library programs
- 37,000 staff (FTE) provided user services and products through 19,000 service points managed by 16,000 public, academic, national special, and school libraries across Canada
- 16,000 staff worked in 3,400 service points managed by 1,700 public libraries
- 8,000 staff worked in 700 service points managed by 200 academic libraries
- 2,000 staff worked in 7 service points managed by 3 national special libraries
- 11,000 staff worked in 14,500 service points managed by 14,500 school libraries
- 20 million service hours per year were available in public, academic, national special, and school libraries to the people of Canada in all walks of life (397,000 hours per week for 50 weeks)
- 3 million hours per year in public libraries (61,000 hours per week for 50 weeks)
- 3 million hours per year in academic libraries (62,000 hours per week for 50 weeks)
- 14,000 hours per year in national special libraries (268 hours per week for 50 weeks)
- 14 million hours per year in school libraries (380,000 hours per week for 36 weeks)
- $3.5 billion were invested in services, products, and capital assets in public, academic, national special, and school libraries across Canada, of which $2.1 billion went to staff and $558 million to library collection acquisitions and database subscriptions
- $1.5 billion were invested in public libraries, $925 million for staff and $159 million for collections
- $952 million were invested in academic libraries, $507 million for staff and $332 million for collections
- $197 million in national special libraries, $136 million for staff and $11 million for collections
- $896 million in school libraries, $561 million for staff and $56 million for collections
An Executive Summary Table at the end of this report details these statistical measures by library sector.
These key measures can be “sliced and diced” into a myriad of ratios and percentages such as per capita, per library, per day, per month, and combinations thereof. Here are some “Quotable Facts” of interest that try to reduce the magnitudes of these national patterns to more anchored perspectives, which themselves can be rephrased in different ways and recalculated even more times on the basis of individual library sectors. On average:
- There were 1 million visits to libraries (public, academic, and school) every day of the year in 2010.
- Every Canadian visited a library once a month in 2010 (11 visits per year).
- There were 189,000 electronic database sessions conducted in libraries (public, academic and the three national special libraries) every day of the year in 2010.
- Every Canadian conducted 2 electronic database sessions a year in Canadian libraries in 2010.
- There were 1.6 million uses of library materials every day of the year in 2010.
- Every Canadian used at least one library item per month in 2010 (17 library items per year).
- Print and electronic resources owned and leased by libraries amounted to 14 items per Canadian.
- Public and academic libraries answered almost 70,000 questions by Canadians every day of the year in 2010.
- Every Canadian asked one question a year in 2010.
- 21,000 Canadians attended programs held by public and academic libraries every day in 2010.
- Libraries in Canada run on 28 cents per day per Canadian, $104 per year per Canadian.
- 41% of Canadians are active public library cardholders, and an estimated 20% have a library card but haven’t used it in the last three years, for a total of 61% of all Canadians with public library membership.
- 95% of Canadians had access to local public libraries in 2010.
- 93% of Canadian schools had libraries in 2004.
Executive Summary: National Values Profile
A forward-thinking innovation in the current project was the introduction of a key feature on library value propositions. Unlike the ability to rely on secondary data sources for library statistics, this component of the project involved primary data collection of a qualitative and narrative nature from a large number of sources. As such, it should be regarded as exploratory and tentative, and feedback is invited for future refinement of the “data” for alignment with current Canadian political words and concepts. Already, the project has convinced one library official that a much better job of keeping track of valuable comments and expressions of local support needs to be addressed. Also unlike the national statistical profile, the values profile includes contributions pertaining to special libraries.
The national values profile “database” consists of a brief “Framework for Thinking about Messaging,” which are suggested (and perhaps idiosyncratic) guidelines for considering and constructing value propositions, together with a series organized by library sector of bulleted listings of “Value Propositions”: libraries in general; academic libraries; school libraries; special libraries; and public libraries. Entries within sectors are grouped loosely into contributions by political and community leaders from all walks of life, by other library supporters, by library user communities, and by library workers; unattributed statements are placed last in each sector. At the end is a listing of sources specifically referenced in the value propositions, but excluded are many other sources that were consulted during the course of the project.
Statements and attributions contributed by third parties are accepted as presented to us and have not been authenticated or permissions to use confirmed. It should also be noted that quotations and texts have been edited or paraphrased for length and flow; original texts should be checked before use for advocacy and marketing, particularly more extended ones that are frequently highly condensed synopses. The emphasis is on Canadian statements but others are included.
The framework for messaging starts with a common understanding of the term “value proposition” as an actionable, credible, succinct, and compelling promise to intended recipients of specific benefits, promises that recipients can visualize and get excited about.
In this context, Stephen Abram has observed, “Statistics aren’t emotionally engaging,” and that librarians should market experiences, not statistics. Raw statistics are just representations of effort, he has also noted. Along similar lines, George Needham said that librarians should “connect the dots for people,” and “talk about the results we get from reading books – not the lending, not the tools, not the assets.”
In a related vein, Kathleen Shearer has written that “the library community seems well disposed to move from basic statistical measures to measures that tie the value of libraries more closely to the benefits they create for their users, thus defining new research objectives for the future.” In other words, sell benefits, not features. And at the risk of a certain authorial conceit, these observations echo remarks made a decade ago in the 1999 NCLSP Report (2002) about the imperative of effective messaging and identity formation:
The biggest challenge facing the library community is telling its story—going beyond the data in meaningful ways that will resonate with sponsors, policy makers, politicians, and library users alike.
Value propositions for academic, school, special, and public libraries in Canada reveal a broad diversity of benefits—individual outcomes and societal impacts—that are not easily summarized or categorized, and assuredly not quantifiable.
Among the most challenging aspects of library value messaging are that:
- Many profoundly important benefits to individuals and society occur over a much longer period of time than the one-year budget cycle or short-term program offerings, for example, summer reading programs;
- Learning, however acquired, is elusive, just as information is elusive, and few people ever think about the meaning of either or about the value of library resources;
- Recent research points to a perception that the library is not making a critical and essential contribution to the issues facing communities today; and,
- Though supportive of libraries, people are generally unaware of library funding challenges in any of the sectors with which they have direct interaction or personal knowledge.
National Statistical and Values Profile of Canadian Libraries