Public libraries

The number of people who go to Czech libraries is gradually decreasing, while the number of those who have never been in one is rising. Over six years the ratio between these two categories has more or less been reversed, while the number of those who do not go, but used to, is basically stable.

Which services are most sought after at libraries? Book loans are easily predominant, followed at some distance by magazine loans, reading rooms, study rooms, copying and information from publications. In recent times interest in borrowing magazines, cultural programmes and the internet has fallen most of all.

  • There is a large gender gap (around 15%) in favour of women.

  • Out of the age cohorts, there are most public library visitors among the youngest (15-24), although here we have also noted the largest fall in recent times. The elderly go to libraries considerably more than the average among the entire population. People aged 25-34 visit libraries least of all.

  • Education plays a key role, but not to such an extent as in the case of reading; there has been a recent drop in the number of visitors with secondary and higher education. People with primary education only visit libraries least of all, but we have not noted any drop in their numbers over the three polls.

  • economic activity is a significant differentiating variable; economically inactive people (students and pensioners) have a prominent presence at libraries, but here we have recently noted a far greater fall than in the case of economically active people.

  • As for income per household member, those with the highest incomes predominate, but here we have also noted the greatest fall.

  • Size of conurbation: it is certainly not the case that the larger it is, the more visitors there are to public libraries; it is actually people from small towns (with 5,000 to 19,999 inhabitants) who visit libraries most of all.

  • The trend in the reader category is clear: the stronger the reader, the more frequently he visits public libraries; however, libraries are also visited by a tiny number (around 2%) of non-readers; three fifths of those who visit public libraries also buy books on the book market, while two fifths of those who do not visit public libraries buy books..

  • Socio-demographic profile of library visitor; largest categories in order of size (2013): higher education (45%), 15-24 (43%), women (39%), economically inactive (38%).

The data indicates both a considerable ongoing fall in visitors and some appreciable socio-demographic shifts. One reason, albeit not the only one, is the internet: services that previously needed to be sought at libraries (e.g. reference works) can now easily be found online (e.g. Wikipedia, web-based language dictionaries and encyclopedias). Hence even students, i.e. those who go to libraries most often out of all the cohorts, are increasingly supplied by electronic material for study. The internet is just one more reason why fewer and fewer people are going to libraries. As it has expanded into the domestic sphere, libraries have ceased to be a highly sought-after public internet source, a role which it still played in small to medium-sized towns in the first decade of the 21st century.