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Ontario Public Library Statistics and Talking Points

In my role at FOPL we have assembled the following stats and talking points that member libraries may find helpful in talking about public libraries in Ontario.  We’ve got a lot more data but here are a few:

Ontarians have voted with their library cards and passionate support for public libraries continues to grow in the digital age.

The Federation of Ontario Public Libraries represents Ontario’s over 300 public library systems exceeding 1,100 branches in virtually every Ontario community. Over 5 million Ontario residents make hundreds of millions of visits to the library, in person and virtually, every year.  Libraries are trusted, accessible community hubs providing freely accessible professional service, technology, programs, and resources to a more diverse range of residents than any other cultural institution.

  • Ontario’s Public Library Systems serve over 98% of Ontarians.
  • Over 5.1 million Ontarians have an active library membership card. The number of Ontarians with library cards grows every year a true measure of public support.
  • Ontario’s over 10,000 library workers engage over 17,000 volunteers – especially high schoolers meeting their volunteer hour commitments.
  • Ontario has over 307 library systems with over 1100 service points and 11,000+ public access computer workstations.
  • Ontarians borrowed almost 132 million items in 2012 or over 10 items for every Ontario resident. They asked over 7.4 million research questions.  Ontario’s libraries create unfettered access to these collections for $4.33 per capita – great value for money!
  • Ontario’s public libraries provide millions of dollars of high quality electronic resources, databases and e-books for just over $1 per Ontarian! Nearly every Ontario library system has multiple presences on the web including their website and social media presences that provide 24/7/365 access to many of the library’s resources.
  • Ontarians made over 75 million in-person visits to the library in 2012 and almost 3.5 million Ontarians attended library programs from children’s story hours, to job finding classes to technology training. Public libraries delivered over 186 thousand of these popular programs.
  • Over 50% of Ontarians visited a public library last year.
  • Only 37% of Ontario’s First Nation communities have a library and those are open fewer hours than other communities.
  • A recent Dec. 2012 study by the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute for the Toronto Public Library discovered that:
    • Toronto Public Library delivers $5.63 of economic impact for Every $1 spent
    • Toronto Public Library creates over $1 billion in total economic impact.
    • For every dollar invested in Toronto Public Library (TPL), Torontonians receive $5.63 in benefits – The return from the City of Toronto’s investment in the Toronto Public Library is 463%, which is the midpoint of a range very conservatively estimated to be 244% and is comfortably shown to reach 681%.
    • For the 72% of Torontonians who use library services, the total direct benefit is as much as $500 ($502.15) per library member.
    • The average open hour at a TPL branch generates $2,515 in direct benefits. The average benefit is almost 4 times the average cost.
  • Milton Public Library replicated parts of the MPI study in 2014 in their smaller community and discovered that:
    • MPL creates nearly $30 million in total economic impact.
    • This economic impact equates to $930.00 per household or $312.00 per capita.
    • Investing in MPL results in a return on investment of 467% for the Town of Milton.
    • The value of a library membership is $600/year.
    • MPL generates over $3,000 in direct benefits for every hour it is open.
    • MPL generates many more intangible benefits offered through community partnerships.
  • The most recent (2013) OMBI (Ontario Municipal CAO’s Benchmarking Initiative) noted that:
    • There were over 30 uses per capita and up to 16 electronic uses per capita for the communities participating in the study.
    • The communities’ collections contained 2.6 items per capita.
    • Each individual use of the library by a resident was a tiny $1.57 to $2.43 per use.

Some fun facts from OCLC Research (just urban sample):

  • Canadians visit the library almost as much as we go to the movies and 20 times more often than we attend Canadian NHL games each year.
  • Nearly two out of three Canadians have library cards—about as many as have passports.
  • Canadians borrow twice as many books from libraries as we buy from bookstores; although there are almost a third fewer libraries than bookstores in the country.
  • Canadians go to libraries to find jobs, create new careers and help grow our small businesses. We borrow books, journals, music and movies. We learn to use the latest technology. We get our questions answered, engage in civic activities, meet with friends and co-workers and improve our skills at one of the public libraries.
  • Every month, 204,000 Canadians get job-seeking help at their public library.
  • Americans value libraries too. A Pew study recently discovered that 94 percent of American parents agree that “libraries are important for their children.”
  • In the U.S. if you have ever felt overwhelmed by the ubiquity of McDonald’s, this stat may make your day: There are more public libraries (about 17,000) in America than outposts of the burger mega-chain (about 14,000). The same is true of Starbucks (about 11, 000 coffee shops nationally).

And a classic:

Via Alvin Schrader, former president CLA.

“There are more libraries in Canada than Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s restaurants combined – 22,000 compared to 2,049 “Tim’s” and more than 1,200 McDonald’s. And for every three donuts sold by Tim Horton’s in 1999, one book or other item was accessed by someone in a library somewhere in the country. In 1999 twice as many Canadians went to libraries as to movie theatres.”

For the kids stuff from the OISE report for FOPL:

“Participants in public library summer reading programs scored higher on reading achievement tests.”

“Kids who don’t read well by Grade 3 are more likely to drop out of school.”

“Early literacy library programs have a noticeable impact on children’s literacy behaviour and on parent/caregiver interactions in their homes.”

Early literacy programs in public libraries have a measurable impact on children’s school readiness.

Simply put: Ontario’s Public Libraries, now more than ever before, play a critical role in the social, educational, cultural and economic success of our Ontario communities. Public Libraries are essential investments in the future of our communities and are essential drivers of success in school preparedness, reading readiness, economic and employment success, and social equity. As the development of the knowledge economy progresses, public libraries are a vital link for every resident and every community to ensure success of all Ontarians, regardless of wealth, location or background.

Ontario public library services have evolved to be much more than books and buildings.  Today’s libraries have a measurable and valuable impact on the quality of life and the success of our communities – economically, socially, educationally, and culturally.  FOPL ensures that funders and decision-makers know the full breadth and depth of the role of public libraries in Ontario, and advocates for the needed support, programs, and resources to continue to make a difference for all Ontarians.  The Public Library value proposition is stronger than ever.

Here are the sources that might be useful as a fine print footnote:



Posted on: November 24, 2014, 7:01 am Category: Uncategorized

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