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Public library statistics

The State Library collects comprehensive statistics from councils annually about their library services.

Under section 5 of the Library Act 1939 the Library Council of NSW makes careful inquiry into the administration and management of every local library in NSW.  Key annual statistics are then used by public libraries for planning, developing and managing library services.

Please find the annual statistics below to download for your use.

Public library statistics

PDF Excel
2019/20 2019/20
2018/19 2018/19
2017/18 Office spreadsheet icon2017/18
2016/17 2016/17
PDF icon2015/16 File2015/16
PDF icon2014/15 File2014/15
PDF icon2013/14 File2013/14
PDF icon2012/13 File2012/13
PDF icon2011/12 File2011/12
PDF icon2010/11  
PDF icon2009/10  

Please contact Public Library Services staff for access to earlier statistics.

Summary statistics

As at June 2020 there were 362 public library buildings in NSW, and 24 mobile libraries servicing small and isolated communities.

Note that a public library is defined as a library building that is provided by a local council in accordance with the Library Act 1939, open 10 or more hours a week, operated by paid staff and offering a range of library services and collections. In addition, councils provided a further 60 library service locations (including library deposit stations or service outlets), and 26 administration or specialist service points.

The key indicators of public library use show that they are highly valued by their communities.

In 2019/20 there were:

  • 25.8 million physical visits to NSW public libraries
  • 34.8 million loans of collection items
  • 12 million virtual visits to public library websites
  • 8 million internet bookings (including wi-fi)
  • 2 million ebook loans, an increase of 500,000 on the previous year.

Library usage figures for 2019/20 were significantly affected by COVID-19, with all library buildings closed from 23 March to 1 June 2020.  Onsite services were restricted during June and many branches remained closed.

Source: State Library April 2021

NSW public library Highlights infographic Highlights infographic

Enquiry completion rate

The Library Act 1939 s10 sets out that public libraries are to offer free basic reference services to the community. Reference assistance is a core service, and is one of the facets of library service that is a point of difference between libraries and other agencies. Collecting and reporting data for this important indicator of use assists to demonstrate the value of public libraries.

Enquiry completion rate (ECR) survey differentiates information requests and customer service requests, it also combines the requests to create an Enquiry completion rate total.

If you are already collecting detailed statistics and reporting them annually to the State Library please continue to use your existing method.

  • 3 May 2021
  • 2 August 2021
  • 1 November 2021
  • 7 February 2022
  • 2 May 2022
  • 1 August 2022
  • 7 November 2022

The survey runs from Monday to Sunday


For the person at each library service co-ordinating the Enquiry completion rate (ECR) survey

  1. Read the ECR definitions (below) 
  2. Download the ECR daily tally sheet
  3. Print one copy for each branch for each day they are open
  4. Train all staff who service clients in how to fill in the forms
  5. Make the forms available for the week
  6. At the end of the week download the ECR form (excel spreadsheet) which matches the number of branches at your library service
  7. Save the spreadsheet
  8. On the results sheet tab enter the dates of the survey – this will embed them on the location pages
  9. Fill in the location page information for your branches, save the spreadsheet
  10. Save the spreadsheets so that the data is available for your annual statistical return (you do not need to send these to the State Library, we just require your totals at the end of the financial year). To obtain the total for the year, add the four totals together, and multiply by 13.
Blank forms

These forms were originally developed by the Public Libraries Evaluation Group (PLEG).

FileECR definitions

(Word 19KB)
FileECR tally sheet(Word 14.42 KB) Revised ECR  tally sheet
ECR form - 1 location
ECR form - 2 locations
ECR form - 3 locations
ECR form  - 4 locations
ECR form - 5 locations
ECR form - 6 locations
ECR form - 7 locations
ECR form - 8 locations
ECR form - 9 locations
ECR form - 10 locations
ECR form - 11 locations
ECR form - 12 locations
ECR form - 13 locations
FileECR form - 14 locations (Excel 179.82 KB)
FileECR form - 15 locations (Excel 191.74 KB)