Spanish libraries lent 60 million print books and 130,000 ebooks in 2017. Or did they? A look at Public Libraries 2020’s curious numbers

With a population of 46 million Spain is fielding 4,600 public libraries – one for every 10,000 citizens, and 8.6 million adults have visited said libraries in 2017 – almost 19% of the population.

But while 60 million print books were borrowed from Spanish libraries in 2017, just 126,000 ebooks were downloaded.

That’s according to Public Libraries 2020, which has just issued its latest infographic on public libraries in the EU.

Kudos to IDBook in France for drawing my attention to this.

At first glance the Public Libraries 2020 site is a treasure trove of useful data about public libraries across the 508 million population European Union. But closer inspection suggests any data offered should not be taken as necessarily reliable.

First there are the inevitable problems of comparing data from different countries, with varying accounting procedures and varying definitions. That means we are not comparing like with like, and while the infographic for Spain looks like it could be plausible, we have no book and ebook loan numbers at all for Italy.

So I took a look at the other book market powerhouses of the EU: Germany, UK and France

Germany, as the largest EU country, naturally has some impressive numbers.

With 9,000 public libraries, Germany (population 82 million) is attributed 357 million book loans in 2017 and 19.6 million ebook loans.

That compares to the UK, with a population of 65 million, fielding 4,000 libraries which loaned 309.5 million books but only 4.1 million ebooks.

Do Germans really borrow so many more ebooks than the Brits?

Much as I’d like to assume these numbers are valid, a look at the infographic for France sets alarm bells ringing.

According to Public Libraries 2020, France, with a population of 67 million, and fielding 16,000 public libraries, loaned 215 million “documents” and, wait for it, 199,700,000 ebooks.

At which point I would draw your attention back to the infographic for Spain, at top, where yes, it does talk about Slovakians, not Spaniards.

With two such glaring errors in the data, it begs the question how many more there might be.

I’ve contacted Public Libraries 2020 and will update this post with any clarifications they might offer.

** All infographics, and more for the other EU countries, can be found from the Public Libraries 2020 country factsheet page.

 

 

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