The use of public libraries in New Brunswick, 2010-2018

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New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training


Can public libraries remain relevant in an era of lightning-fast Internet access, Kindle e-books, and Amazon Prime’s 2-day book deliveries? Most New Brunswickers admit to loving their public libraries, but how many actually use them? Studies show that public libraries provide valuable social capital within their communities. They bring people together, create trust, provide information, and contribute to overall communal well-being. Yet, libraries are increasingly pressured to demonstrate their value and their usefulness to the public. In an attempt to demonstrate library value, researchers at the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training (NB-IRDT) examined the use of public libraries in NB from 2010 to 2018 by looking at how many library cards are being used and how many items are being checked out. Results show that active borrowers’ demand for NB public libraries grew by 8% from 2010-2018. Since 2015, the number of active borrowers has been increasing in the South of the province (13%), especially in Moncton, Saint John, and Fredericton (19%). The authors find this positive trend is driven by population growth in the South, and that demand for libraries in the North remains constant, despite slow population growth and a suffering economy. Disruptions to library services (i.e., closure, renovations) did not lower demand for library services. Instead, library use increased, especially between 2015 and 2016, likely as a result of policy changes, including (i) more flexible ways of providing library cards, (ii) the elimination of overdue fees for children, and (iii) the opening all public libraries on Saturdays (and some on Sundays). Overall, the growth and steady demand for Public Library services in NB is remarkable, given the technological and social changes taking place throughout the province.