How much are Italian public libraries worth?

Some time ago we told you about the first Italian survey on public library users in one of our blogposts. The survey, carried out thanks to the collaboration of AIB, Associazione Italiana Biblioteche, Rete delle Reti and Biblab, Laboratorio di Biblioteconomia sociale e ricerca applicata alle biblioteche of the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, started on 9 December 2020 and ended on 31 March 2021, obtaining more than 67,000 responses.

Most of the respondents (94,55%) belong to that segment of people in Italy who claim (about 15,3% of the population, source ISTAT) to frequent libraries, so the survey tells loyal users’ point of view and addresses for the first time the issue of the value of libraries. But we don’t want to talk only about numbers…

Photo by Fallon Michael on Unsplash

What emerges from this initial analysis?

  • the majority of respondents experience the library as a place of proximity, i.e. the time to reach the library should be around 15 minutes. This is important when considering environmental and social sustainability;
  • the library plays an important role in the identity of the town it belongs to, and although it is a place still strongly linked to reading, it is also perceived as a socially relevant place;
  • “Resource”, “second home”, “opportunity” are the words that emerge most frequently when analysing (using the technique of automatic text analysis, AAT) the answers to the question “What is the library for you?”.

The sense of belonging and the fact that people missed visiting the library during the periods of closure due to COVID-19 emergency is explained by the possibilities it offers to citizens:

the opportunity to read for free, but also to intercept new stimuli; the opportunity to be guided by professionals in the choice of readings, but also to share a passion with other people; the opportunity to enjoy a protected, peaceful place, where positive social relationships can be nurtured.

We are waiting for new results to listen to the voices, words and feelings of the users of Italian public libraries.

Source: Chiara Faggiolani, La biblioteca per te in “Biblioteche Oggi”, 39, (2021), p. 6-9:

By the Central Institute for the Union Catalogue