939,594,891 library users worldwide — Prove me wrong!

That crunching you hear is the sound of the numbers available from OCLC’s Global Library Statistics page.

Over the past several years, the OCLC Library has been compiling data for the total number of libraries, librarians, volumes, expenditures, and users for every country and territory in the world, broken down into the major library types: academic, public, school, special and national.  The goal was to provide statistics on all libraries—not just OCLC libraries—that could be accessed and used by anyone.

A while back Dr. Frank Seeliger, Director of the Library at the Technical University of Applied Sciences in Wildau, Germany, contacted me about the statistics.  He asked if I could send him the actual data behind the site so that he could total up all the libraries, librarians, books, etc.  (At the time the information was only accessible country-by-country.)  I was happy to oblige, and here’s what he came up with.

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Global library statistics summary

His request created the impetus for us to make the data available under an Open Data Commons Attribution License. Two spreadsheets provide information for countries and for U.S. states and Canadian provinces.  A third gives information on the over 80 sources that contribute data.

download data

See the data for yourself!

The staff of the OCLC Library extracted data from respected third-party sources, both electronic and print, that in their judgment are the most current and accurate sources to which they have access. For many countries, data were either unavailable (indicated in the charts as NA) or sporadic. For a lot of the world, the data were not as current as the we would have liked.

We want to makes these statistics as accurate as we can.  Once you’ve taken a look at the Global Library Statistics, take a look the Sources and send me your suggestions or leave a comment below.  While $51 billion in library expenditures is nothing to sneeze at, it is, as Dr. Seeliger put it, a Hausnummer.  A ballpark figure.  And it’s not even adjusted for inflation!

Thanks for your help.

Tam Dalrymple was Senior Information Specialist (reference librarian) at the OCLC Library in Dublin Ohio. Prior to joining OCLC as a product manager some years back, Tam managed reference services at Ohio State and at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Tam left OCLC in 2015.

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