Saturday, August 7, 2010

PL 57/10: A global questionnaire

Filed under: statistics — plinius @ 6:09 pm

The IFLA Board approved the new Manifesto on Library Statistics in May 2010.

Picture: Caribbean beach.

A model questionnaire for public and academic libraries is part of the supporting documents. This questionnaire was developed in a joint project of IFLA and UNESCO, based on international standardisation within ISO, the International Organization for Standardization.

The questionnaire is limited to twenty-three questions in order to facilitate universal application.

Trials in Latin America and the Caribbean have proved the feasibility of utilising the model questionnaire for collecting library statistics on a comparable basis.

Below I list the questions (variables) and add some brief comments.

A. Libraries: Access and facilities

Six variables

  1. Number of libraries
  2. Number of user workplaces (seats)
  3. Weekly opening hours
  4. Percentage of libraries offering Internet access for users
  5. Percentage of libraries offering online catalogues
  6. Percentage of libraries offering websites


We must distinguish between library units, branches or outlets, on the one hand, and separate (independent) library systems or organizations, on the other. A library director is normally located at the central library in the system, and may be in charge of one, a few or many branch libraries. Questionnaires will normally be sent to the director/the central library.

If A1 applies to library systems, it is only relevant at regional and national levels. If it applies to all branches, it is relevant at the local level as well.

A2: Three types of seating are important:

  • the number of seats with library computers
  • the number of seats that are suitable for study (with tables)
  • the total number of seats, including couches and low chairs for rest, talk and leisure reading

A3: In library systems with several branches, libraries are often asked to add the opening hours of all branches together. That is statistically meaningless and should be avoided.

A4-A6: At the level of the single library unit, these are simply yes or no questions. In systems with several branches, special guidelines will be needed.

B. Collection

Four variables

  1. Number of volumes
  2. Number of electronic serials (subscriptions)
  3. Number of ebooks (titles)
  4. Number of databases (purchased or licensed)

C. Library activities and events

Two variables

  1. Number of events
  2. Total annual attendance at user training sessions


  • C1. The number of events can easily be misleading, since the varaiable does not distinguish between events of different size.
    • A parallell: The number of buildings in a city is loosely related to the size of the city – but it is a poor measure of size. Manhattan has 1.6 and Oslo 0.5 million inhabitants. But the number of buildings in Manhattan (70-100.000) is smaller than the number of buildings in Oslo (130.000).

D. Library use and users

Four variables

  1. Total registered users
  2. Number of loans (without renewals and ILL)
  3. Number of downloads from the e-collection
  4. Number of visits


  • D1. The number of active users – people who have borrowed at least one item during the last year – may be more relevant. Even with card catalogue, a fair estimate of the number can probably be made by sampling in a card catalogue.
  • D2. I support this – but it goes against current ISO recommendations, as far as I know.
  • D3. Mainly relevant in the North
  • D4. Good guidelines required

E. Library staff

Three variables

  1. Number of employees (headcounts)
  2. Number of female employees
  3. Hours of training per staff member


  • D1. Isn’t it easier to calculate FTEs than the number of visits?
  • D2. This would be a completely new vcariable in most countries
  • D3. Good guidelines needed

F. Expenditure

Four variables

  1. Total operating expenditure
  2. Staff costs
  3. Expenditure on literature and information
  4. Other costs


F4. Not necessary (except as a control variable)

Source: Global Library Statistics, by Simon Ellis, Michael Heaney, Pierre Meunier and Roswitha Poll, IFLA Journal no. 2, 2009, p. 123-

The manifesto continues:

The model library statistics reveal input and output of libraries and show the library’s role as access point to information, as meeting and communication centre, as place for learning and research. More information can be gained if the results of the questionnaire are set in relation to socio-demographic data collected by UNESCO and other international agencies, e. g. the state of literacy, education and Internet access in a country.

Such combinations can help to identify and promote the libraries’ role for literacy and information literacy, education and culture.


  • Does this refer to national, regional or community level statistics?


  1. […] PL 57/10: A global questionnaire […]

    Pingback by P 8/12: News from the North « Plinius — Sunday, March 4, 2012 @ 10:32 am

  2. […] PL 57/10: A global questionnaire […]

    Pingback by P 9/12: Global statistics 2012 « Plinius — Sunday, March 4, 2012 @ 11:44 am

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