Plinius

Thursday, August 25, 2011

PL 47/11: Reliable statistics are hard to find

Filed under: statistics — plinius @ 8:19 am

The world has about two hundred countries.

In most of them statistics on libraries and library use is incomplete, outdated or absent. Both IFLA and OCLC have tried to gather global library statistics. If we look closely at the data, we find that they can not be trusted for comparisons between countries.

Let us look at the OCLC data on Puerto Rico as a concrete example. If you want to know the overall library situation, you find the following information in the global statistics database:

Total

  1. Expenditures: $ 37,636,000
  2. Librarians: 384
  3. Libraries: 846
  4. Users: 953,335
  5. Volumes: 64,566,731

These numbers are misleading, since they (a) combine numbers from widely different years; (b) lack information from certain libraries. Specifically:

  1. Data from 1990. Does not include the national library or the sixteen special libraries registered
  2. Data from 1990. Does not include the national library or the special libraries
  3. Data from 2010. Does not include the national library
  4. Combines data from 1984, 1990 and 2008 (!)
  5. Combines data from 1984, 1990 and 2008 (!). Does not include the national library.

Significant digits

Adding numbers from 1984, 1990 and 2008 is of course meaningless.

The number of significant figures or digits (Wikipedia) provided is also misleading. The number given as $ 37,636,000 must be rounded to $ 38,000,000 since the expenditures for academic libraries, which is one of the addends, is rounded to $ 25,000,000.

Resources

GLOSSA

APPENDIX

National library

  • expenditures: NA
  • librarians: NA
  • libraries: NA
  • users: 3,000 – 1984 – ALA World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services (ALA, 1986) (= WELIS, 1986)
  • volumes: NA

Academic libraries

  • expenditures: $ 25,000,000 – 1990 – World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services (ALA, 1993) (= WELIS, 1993)
  • librarians: 255 – 1990 – WELIS, 1993
  • libraries: 70 – 2010 – IFLA World Report 2010
  • users: 230,000 – 1990 – WELIS, 1993
  • volumes: 60,185,576 – 2008 – World Guide to Libraries (Saur, 2011). Cutoff date is 2010. Volumes data are from 2008 obtained from CD-ROM version. (= WGL, 2011)

School

  • expenditures: $ 9,136,000 – 1990 – WELIS, 1993
  • librarians: 124 – 1990 – WELIS, 1993
  • libraries – 700 – 2010 – IFLA World Report 2010
  • users: 662,000 – 1990 – WELIS, 1993
  • volumes: 3,100,000 – 1990 – WELIS, 1993

Special

  • expenditures: NA
  • librarians: NA
  • libraries: 16 – 2010 – WGL, 2011
  • users: 4,800 – 1984 – WELIS, 1986
  • volumes: 360,935 – 2008 – WGL, 2011

Public

  • expenditures: $ 3,500,000 – 1990 – WELIS, 1993
  • librarians: 5 – 1990 – WELIS, 1993
  • libraries: 60 – 2010 – IFLA World Report 2010
  • users: 53,535 – 2008 – World Information Report (UNESCO, 1997)
  • volumes: 920,220 – 2005 – WGL, 2011

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