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Online programs in NSW public libraries

Man and woman in background holding a storybook

Filming online storytime program at Campbelltown City Library

About the survey

NSW public libraries offer a wide range of programs and events to their communities. Since 2010 there has been a significant growth in programming across NSW library services. In 2018-19  over 95,000 programs and events were held across the public library network with 1.9 million attendees. Library programs are usually delivered in library buildings but can be delivered in other community spaces.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in all public library buildings being closed between 1 April and 31 May 2020. Due to these closures all onsite library programs across the state ceased. 

Following building closures, many libraries adapted traditional onsite face-to-face programs such as storytime and author talks to streamed or published video content on online platforms including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Other facilitated programs such as reading groups moved to platforms such as Zoom, Skype or Facebook. 

Changes to the NSW Public Health Order allowed libraries to reopen from June 1 2020, with a strict cap on attendance at programs and workshops (10 persons per workshop, extended to 20 persons from 1 July 2020). However, as at September, most libraries have not recommenced face-to-face programming due to a number of factors including limits on visitor numbers (due to physical distancing requirements) and staffing levels. 

The State Library of NSW collects annual statistics about the total number of programs and attendance offered by NSW public libraries. However, online programming is not currently included in these statistics.  The volume of online programming produced since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to collect and analyse this data. 

This survey was designed to capture information about online programming in public libraries during the period 1 April to 30 June 2020. This period covers the closure and subsequent re-opening of public libraries in NSW. 

Download survey findings