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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.’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 in European countries

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

Of the 39 European 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 the German capital is only 0.25. On the other hand, in Dublin— 0.44.

London in this ranking is placed in the 13th position: 10 thousand londoners have less than one library, 0.39 to be exact. The total number of public libraries is 348, taking into account the provincial and national institutions, while according to the latest data of GLA, 9,002,000 people live in London.

The residents of Istanbul have the most difficult access to free books. For 10 thousand people, there is only 0.03 library. The same situation may be found in Zurich and Sofia—0.05 libraries per 10 thousand residents.

Public libraries availability in Europe

Availability of libraries in British cities

Usually, state capitals are the most developed and rich in cultural infrastructure. However, they do not always represent the experiences of residents of other centers in the country. That is why we also took a closer look at public libraries in 11 British provincial cities.

The most favorable ratio of the number of libraries to the number of residents is in Nottingham and Bristol – more than a half of a library per 10 thousand residents (0.58 each). Bradford placed third (0.57), and Leicester came fourth (0.48).

London came 8th in the UK ranking (0.39).

The three cities with the most difficult access to public libraries include Liverpool (0.38 library per 10 thousand residents), Sheffield (0.23) and Birmingham (0.14).

Public libraries availability in the uk

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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 ( with a link to this subpage. If you have any questions, please contact us: