Saturday, 30 August 2008

Library Lending: A Northern Hemisphere Phenomenon?

Take a close look at this map1 of "books borrowed from public libraries - which lend books to members for free or for a nominal charge." and you can see two things; firstly, most of the lending seems to take place in the nortnern hemisphere (where's Australia?) and secondly the poorest countries seem to come have the least lending of all - in fact the entire continent of Africa is reduced to a thin line.

It's also worth noting the obvious lending culture in Eastern Europe and how Japan still lends large amounts of material even though it is a highly technologised culture. I was also shocked by how low levels for Ireland are (compare to Northern Ireland for example).

Now, these figures are from 1999 and since then Ireland has developed the fantastic service (which helped inform our own Cat Cymru developments), allowing inter-lending across the country via the web, so I'll be interested to know if the levels have increased since and by how much.

As a final point of note: the UK is huge (it looked at first like Scandinavia to me), which implies that our level of lending is something to be proud of. With all the rhetoric surrounding declining usage I think we should be careful to look at global trends (economic and cultural) along side our own local statistics.

1 It's well worth checking out the pdf for the map, which has more raw data.

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