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Public libraries: where is access to books the easiest?

PicodiMay 26, 2022

Public libraries not only provide access to literature and knowledge. According to the American Library Association, public libraries also play an important role in building and integrating the local community, providing residents with a place to meet and organize cultural events.

Picodi.com’s analysts decided to find out which capitals and major cities around the world have the easiest access to public libraries.

In this study, we took into account libraries managed by city authorities as well as regional and national libraries located within city limits. We took the number of libraries per 10,000 residents as the index.

Availability of libraries around the world

Public libraries usually allow all residents to use their collections for free.

Of the 19 APAC and G20 cities included in this study, the easiest access to public libraries is in Brussels. There is one library per 10,000 residents there. For comparison, the number of libraries per 10,000 residents in London is only 0.39. On the other hand, in Sydney—0.02.

Singapore in this ranking is placed in the 15th position: 10 thousand Singaporeans have less than one library, 0.05 to be exact. The total number of public libraries is 27, taking into account the provincial and national institutions, while according to the latest data of Singapore Department of Statistics, 5,453,600 people live in Singapore.

The residents of Riyadh have the most difficult access to free books. For 10 thousand people, there is only 0.01 library. Similar situations may be found in Karachi and Sao Paulo—0.03 and 0.05 libraries per 10 thousand residents.

Public libraries availability around the world

Methodology and data sources

The study included municipal, regional and national public libraries located within the administrative boundaries of individual cities. University, private and specialist libraries were omitted.

The data comes from the official websites of individual libraries, networks of public libraries, and local authorities that supervise or collect statistical data on these institutions.

Information on the number of residents comes from official sources: data from censuses or forecasts provided by local self-government bodies or statistical offices.

The source list is available here.

Public Use

The infographics and statistical data presented in the report can be freely used for both commercial and non-commercial purposes, indicating the author of the study (Picodi.com) with a link to this subpage. If you have any questions, please contact us: research@picodi.com.