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About the Global Library Statistics

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. Also, for a lot of the world, the data were not as current as the compilers would have liked. Many of the printed sources were several years old and many websites were suspect. It was felt, however, that a fairly recent figure was better than none at all, with a cut-off date of around 1980. The OCLC Library staff had to determine which of the sometimes several possible sources was the most reliable in terms of accuracy and currency. Seldom did the data from two or more different sources coincide for the same year.

The decision about whether to record data under the independent county or under a dependency was determined by how the data were reported in the data sources. For example, Tasmania is represented under Australia, but Puerto Rico is separate.

For the sake of uniformity, the total number of libraries represents administrative units and not service points, since not all sources report service points consistently. Some of the country entries did not specify which unit they were reporting, in which case it was assumed that it was administrative units.

As for the monetary units for expenditures, since most sources reported them in either local currency or in Euros, they were converted to US$ as of the last day of the year of the data of the source. The difficulty of obtaining expenditures figures was exacerbated considerably by the fact that they are reported in so few sources. In many countries, expenditures for libraries fall into the public domain, and thus their budgets are subsumed under those for other ministries or agencies, such as education or culture.

In some countries, the distinction between categories was unclear; for example, school libraries in the United States means grades K-12, whereas in other countries it includes colleges or technical and vocational institutions. Ecclesiastical libraries and those in large research institutes were included under special libraries.

In those few instances when the date of the source data was unclear or unknown, the date of compilation or of publication was used.

In general, data are updated on the world map as they are updated in the sources.

Because of these issues, it is possible that the figures represent an underestimate of worldwide totals in all categories; other more current and accurate sources may exist that the compilers are unaware of. If you know of, or can recommend additional sources, please contact us.

We are a worldwide library cooperative, owned, governed and sustained by members since 1967. Our public purpose is a statement of commitment to each other—that we will work together to improve access to the information held in libraries around the globe, and find ways to reduce costs for libraries through collaboration. Learn more »