1. Main facts and figures

  • overall, in 2017/18, 32.7% of people aged 16 years and over said they had used a public library in the past year – a decrease of 4.3 percentage points since 2012/13
  • 42.6% of Black people had used a public library, compared with 31.7% of White people
Things you need to know

These figures are estimates based on responses to the Taking Part Survey. The Taking Part survey is a sample survey. It collects information from a random sample of the population and uses it to reach generalised findings about the total population.

Unless stated otherwise, the commentary for this data includes only reliable findings (sometimes described as ‘statistically significant’). Findings are statistically significant when we can be confident that they can be repeated, and are reflective of the total population rather than just the survey sample.

Specifically, the statistical tests used mean we can be confident that if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population, 19 times out of 20 we would get similar findings.

As with all surveys, the estimates from the Taking Part survey are subject to a degree of uncertainty as they are based on a sample of the population. The degree of uncertainty is greater when the number of respondents is small, so it will be highest for ethnic minority groups.

What the data measures

This data measures the percentage of people aged 16 and over in England who used a public library in their own time or for voluntary work in the year before taking the survey.

Percentages are calculated using the total number of survey respondents. Results are adjusted to make them representative of the population as a whole.

The ethnic categories used in this data

Respondents were asked to indicate their ethnicity from a choice of 18 categories.

For this data, the number of people surveyed was too small to draw any firm conclusions about these specific ethnic categories. Therefore, the data here is broken down into the following 5 broad groups:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Mixed
  • White
  • Other

2. By ethnicity

Percentage of people aged 16 years and over who used a public library in the past year, by ethnicity
Ethnicity % Number of respondents
All 32.7 7,715
Asian 38.5 397
Black 42.6 203
Mixed 39.5 144
White 31.7 6,854
Other 25.4 79

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2017/18, 32.7% of people aged 16 years and over said they had used a public library in the past year
  • Black people (42.6%) and Asian people (38.5%) were more likely to have used a public library in the past year than White people (31.7%)

3. By ethnicity over time

Percentage of people aged 16 years and over who used a public library in the past year, by ethnicity over time
All Asian Black Mixed White Other
Time % Number of respondents % Number of respondents % Number of respondents % Number of respondents % Number of respondents % Number of respondents
2012/13 37.0 9,838 43.5 394 49.7 188 47.2 171 35.9 9,054 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 22
2013/14 35.4 10,355 49.2 404 50.0 203 43.8 142 33.8 9,546 38.0 49
2014/15 34.5 9,817 49.3 367 44.9 239 49.8 99 32.9 9,050 38.9 52
2015/16 33.4 10,171 46.6 434 47.6 242 40.4 119 31.6 9,312 38.5 55
2016/17 34.0 9,352 47.7 423 44.0 242 41.6 170 32.3 8,473 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 27
2017/18 32.7 7,715 38.5 397 42.6 203 39.5 144 31.7 6,854 25.4 79

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • between 2012/13 and 2017/18, the percentage of people aged 16 years and over who said they had used a public library in the past decreased from 37.0% to 32.7%
  • in the same period, the percentage of White people using a public library decreased from 35.9% to 31.7%
  • although the chart and table show other differences between ethnic groups, and changes over time, there were no other meaningful changes

4. Methodology

The Taking Part survey measures cultural activity by people aged 16 years and over, as well as children aged 5 to 10 years and 11 to 15 years. Respondents must be living in private households in England, but the cultural activity can have taken place anywhere.

The sample for the Taking Part survey is chosen by first randomly selecting households from the Postcode Address File.

An interviewer visits these addresses and, if contact is made, records details of all individuals living at each address. One adult, and where applicable one child aged 5 to 10 and one aged 11 to 15, is then selected to participate in the survey.

The figures presented here only apply to people aged 16 years and over.

Weighting:

Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and improve their accuracy.

For example, a survey which contains 25% women and 75% men will not accurately reflect the views of the general population, which we know has an even 50/50 split. Statisticians rebalance or ‘weight’ the survey results to more accurately represent the general population. This helps to make them more reliable.

Survey weights are usually applied to make sure the survey sample has broadly the same gender, age, ethnic and geographic make up as the general population.

The data in the Taking Part sample is weighted to make sure it is representative of the population in England. The data is weighted to:

  • compensate for unequal probabilities of selection
  • adjust for non-responses

Weighting is based on mid-year population estimates from the Office for National Statistics.

Confidence intervals:

You can see confidence intervals for each ethnic group if you download the data.

In 2017/18, 32.7% of people aged 16 years and over had used a public library in their own time or for voluntary work in the past year. This is a reliable estimate of the percentage of people in England who used a public library in that period. But because the Taking Part Survey is based on a random sample, it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.

It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 31.4% and 34.0% of all people aged 16 years and over in England used a public library. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall between the upper and lower confidence interval. But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.

For 2017/18, the Other ethnic group had 79 respondents (out of 7,715 respondents in total), so we can be less certain about the estimate for the Other ethnic group (25%). This greater uncertainty is expressed by a wider confidence interval, of between 13.4% and 37.5% for people from the Other ethnic group in 2017/18.

Changes over time and differences between groups are only reported on where they are statistically significant at the 95% level. This means that we can be confident that the differences seen in our sampled respondents are reflective of the population. The statistical tests used mean we can be confident that if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population 95 times out of 100 we would get similar findings.

Rounding

Percentages are given to the nearest whole number.

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

Taking Part technical reports.

5. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Publication frequency

Twice a year

Purpose of data source

The Taking Part Survey measures people's involvement in cultural activities in England.

The data is widely used by policy officials, practitioners, academics and charities.

6. Download the data

Use of public libraries - Spreadsheet (csv) 8 KB

This file contains: Measure, Time, Ethnicity, Geography, Value, Upper bound, Lower bound,Number of respondents