Wednesday, September 17, 2008

PL 41/08: Steady decline in book lending

Filed under: statistics — plinius @ 5:52 pm

In Norway, as in other Nordic countries, book lending is falling steadily. The trend is most pronounced in larger communities.

The library statistics annual for 2007 has just been published – and I use the occasion to take a look at lending. Long term changes are much more significant than what happens from one year to the next. I have therefore compared the 2007 data with 2001 – rather than with 2006.

In the thirteen largest municipalities – those with more than fifty thousand inhabitants – the median decline was 20 percent.

Not a single library escaped the trend. The range went from -6 percent in the northern city of Tromsø to -33 percent in rich, suburban Bærum, west of Oslo.

Tromsø can boast of a magnificent new public library, which opened in 2006. The curve went down from 2001 to 2005, and Tromsø is now on an upward trend:3.85 in 2005, 4.01 in 2006 and 4.08 in 2007.

Bærum reduced its (high) library budget substantially just after 2001. Cuts in staff and services had an immediate impact …

In the next size group – from twenty to fifty thousand inhabitants – we find 31 municipalities. The median decline was 10 percent.

Six libraries experienced growth: 1246 Fjell, 0625 Nedre Eiker, 1833 Rana, 1149 Karmøy, 0231 Skedsmo and 0230 Lørenskog. [The first two digits identify the county].

Fifty-six municipalities  have more than ten but less than twenty thousand inhabitants. Here, the median decline was 9 percent.

Five libraries increased their loans by more than twenty percent from 2001 to 2007: 0136 Rygge, 0528 Østre Toten, 0402 Kongsvinger,1224 Kvinnherad and 0814 Bamble

Six libraries fell by thirty percent or more: 0529 Vestre Toten,  0216 Nesodden, 0237 Eidsvoll, 1653 Melhus, 1121 Time, 0124 Askim.

Interesting numbers need local interpreters

Big changes are always interesting. To interpret such changes we must, however.

(1) look at the starting point
(2) study changes year by year – over a longer period
(3) know the local situation

It is, for instance, much easier to improve a library from a low level, than from a high level. When Østre Toten goes up – while its neighbour Vestre Toten goes down – we must turn to the local librarians and politicians for explanations.

Small communities

In municipalities with five to ten thousand inhabitants, the decline was moderate – only 4 percent. In the smallest communities, with less than five thousand inhabitants, book lending increased by 3 percent in the median case.


I have tabulated data for all Norwegian public libraries – year by year – at

Book loans per capita. Norway 2001-2007. Municipalities.



  1. […] har internasjonal interesse. Jeg har kommentert det synkende bokutlånet på engelsk – og da sett på utviklingen fra 2001 til 2007. For å gjøre det lettere å studere […]

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  2. […] PL 41/08. Steady decline in book lending. […]

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