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Canadians and their Libraries

BookNet Canada recently released a new study, “On Loan: Library Use in Canada 2021”, that explores “the browsing, borrowing and reading habits of Canadian library patrons”. It compares data from 2021 with previous years and reveals the impact of COVID on library usage.

Sadly, this kind of broad-based information in the Canadian public library world is uncommon. Somehow the now defunct Canadian Library Association never really got around to it and provincial statistics are just that: lacking interpretation, or analysis which can reveal commonality, unexpected realities and interesting trends. Many thanks to BookNet and the annual publications from who partnered on this project.

You can find the full report on the BookNet Canada website.  Meanwhile, here are some interesting findings:

  • 19% of all Canadians borrowed a book from a library in 2021 (surprisingly high considering COVID restrictions)
  • C had the highest number of library cardholders, making up approximately 43% of B.C. residents in 2020.
  • print books remained the most popular format for Canadian book borrowers. In 2021,97% of book borrowers read print books, 73% read ebooks and 57% listened to audiobooks. (A full breakdown of ebooks and audiobook trends is included)
  • 97% of ebook borrowers, 93% of audiobook borrowers and 77% of print book borrowers visited a public library at least once in 2021.
  • patrons borrowed on average 5.5 books a month in 2021, with print being the most popular format.
  • Canadian book borrowers were 7% more likely than the average Canadian to identify as a woman—60% were women and 40% were men. (I’m assuming future studies will broaden these gender identities)
  • in 2021 Canadian book borrowers were 10% more likely than all Canadians to read diversely and 4% more likely to read or listen to books every day than all Canadian readers in 2021.
  • here’s an interesting finding: “book borrowers who read print books and ebooks were more likely to be women, audiobook listeners were more likely to be men”
  • There’s lots more, so please take some time to read the complete BookNet study.

(From the archives, written in September 2022 by your Boundary representative, Mary)