Use of libraries

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2018 to 2019, 32.9% of people aged 16 years and over said they had used a library in the past year (down from 37.0% in 2012 to 2013)
  • Asian people were more likely (42.5%) to have used a library than White people (31.8%)
Things you need to know

The data for this analysis comes from the Taking Part Survey. This survey uses a random sample of people to make generalisations about the whole population.

The commentary for this data includes only reliable findings. Findings are reliable ('statistically significant’) when they reflect the total population. This means we would get similar findings 19 times out of 20 if we carried out the same survey on different people.

All survey estimates are subject to some uncertainty as they are based on a sample of the population.

Ethnic minority groups tend to have a smaller number of survey respondents. As a result, their estimates are less reliable than those for White people.

What the data measures

This data measures the percentage of people aged 16 and over in the past year who had used a public library service:

  • in their own time
  • for voluntary work

This is not restricted to visiting in person to borrow books. It includes going to the library to do printing, taking part in a reading group and using online library resources.

The data includes people living in England, and is broken down by ethnicity.

The ethnic categories used in this data

Survey respondents were asked to choose their ethnic group from a choice of 18 categories.

The number of people surveyed was too small to draw any firm conclusions about these ethnic categories. So the data is grouped into the following 5 broad ethnic groups:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Mixed
  • White
  • Other

2. By ethnicity

Percentage of people aged 16 years and over who used a library in the past year, by ethnicity
Ethnicity % Number of respondents
All 32.9 8,161
Asian 42.5 487
Black 33.8 226
Mixed 39.6 121
White 31.8 7,239
Other 37.5 46

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of Use of libraries By ethnicity Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2018 to 2019, 32.9% of people aged 16 years and over said they had used a library in the past year
  • Asian people (42.5%) were more likely to have used a library than White people (31.8%)

3. By ethnicity over time

Percentage of people aged 16 years and over who used a library in the past year, by ethnicity over time
All Asian Black Mixed White Other
Time All % All Number of respondents Asian % Asian Number of respondents Black % Black Number of respondents Mixed % Mixed Number of respondents White % White Number of respondents Other % Other 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
2018/19 32.9 8,161 42.5 487 33.8 226 39.6 121 31.8 7,239 37.5 46

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary of Use of libraries By ethnicity over time Summary

This data shows that:

  • between 2012 to 2013 and 2018 to 2019, the percentage of people aged 16 years and over who had used a library in the past year decreased from 37.0% to 32.9%
  • in the same period, the percentage of White people using a library decreased from 35.9% to 31.8%
  • 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 among:

  • 5 to 10 year olds
  • 11 to 15 year olds
  • people aged 16 and over

Survey respondents must live in private households in England. The cultural activity they took part in can have taken place anywhere.

Respondents are chosen randomly from the Royal Mail Postcode Address File.

An interviewer visits respondents' addresses. They record details of everyone living at each address they successfully contact. Where possible, they select one adult, one 5 to 10 year old, and one 11 to 15 year old to take part in the survey.

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

Weighting:

Weighting adjusts the results of a survey to make them more reliable and more representative of the general population.

For example, if 25% of a survey's respondents are women, it won't reflect the views of the general population.

The data in the Taking Part sample 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:

Download the data to see confidence intervals for each ethnic group.

In 2018 to 2019, 32.9% of people aged 16 years and over had used a 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 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 between 31.6% and 34.3% of all people aged 16 years and over in England used a 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.

The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval.

For 2018 to 2019, the Other ethnic group had 46 respondents (out of 8,161 respondents in total). Because of this, we can be less certain about the estimate for the Other ethnic group (37.5%). This greater uncertainty is expressed by a wider confidence interval, of between 20.4% and 58.5%.

Changes over time and differences between groups are only reported if 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.

Rounding

Percentages are rounded to 1 decimal place.

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 libraries - Spreadsheet (csv) 9 KB

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