The public libraries in Denmark in figures

The public library in Denmark in the year 2013 has changed significantly. Societal and technological changes have meant that today the public library handles tasks that supplement the classic library service with its main emphasis on information and mediation of the materials.

An example of new library events: Librarians from Lyngby-Taarbæk main library presents the library's annual ‘cake competition’ in conjunction with the trade association “Life in Lyngby days”. Photo: Lyngby-Taarbæk LibraryToday the public library carries out a number of societal functions with the emphasis on citizen service centres and informal offers on learning. With an increased number of arrangements and activities, the library invites the citizens to share, create and gain insight into cultural, social and socially relevant activities.

In this way, the public library acts as a local meeting place. This is also reflected in the public libraries’ growing collaboration with both new and well-known partners. The physical library is changing as well, and the latest development includes actual experiments with institutional cooperation and development of cultural arenas.

Number of public libraries unchanged

From 2010 to 2013, a consolidation has taken place in the number of public libraries, amounting to 483, when combining central libraries, branches and bookmobiles. It includes also the open libraries where users can let themselves in during the early and late hours. During the same period, the number of service points, where you can only collect and return materials, has risen to twice the figure and is now 87.

The number of open libraries has more or less exploded since 2012. Then the figure was 67 as opposed to 247 primo August 2014. With the many more open libraries, where access is often every day from 8 am to 10 pm, the total number of hours with access to the libraries has taken a great leap upwards.

Record in arrangements and activities

In the entire period from 2010 to 2013, the number of physical visits has, however, remained stable at around 36 million. Despite a decrease in net running costs, the public libraries have thus been able to attract a more or less unchanged number of visitors, and number of active borrowers is in 2013 a little up on 2010. They are just borrowing fewer physical materials.

On the other hand, there has been a considerable increase in the use of electronic services, and the libraries’ homepages, too, are getting more and more popular.

The combination of citizen service centre and library has been growing during the period, and two out of three public libraries today offer a varied number of services, ranging from assistance in using the public self-service solutions to issuing passports and driving licenses.

Books and reading core service 

From 2012 to 2013 there was a marked increase in number of reading clubs facilitated by the public libraries. The figures confirm that Danes both read and wish to talk to others about what they have read. This is also supported by the public libraries’ distribution of money for the purchase of various types of materials, where books in relation to other types of material like film, games etc. form a larger part than previously.

Both expenses for materials and the size of the physical stock of materials have fallen between 2010 and 2013 – particularly the stock of materials for adults, where the decrease is four times greater than in the children’s collection.

A downward slope

The loan of physical materials is also on a downward slope, just as the number of staff in the public libraries has fallen by 10 percent. Salary expenses have decreased in a similar way and now account for a slightly smaller part of the public libraries’ net costs – in all just over two thirds. Running costs per se have also fallen by almost a third.

Over the past two years, many municipalities have invested in new library building, alternatively modernization or changes in design. Many are indicating that they are planning to renovate or modernize their interior decor.

Library consultant Danish Agency for Libraries and Media
Senior Advisor Agency for Culture and Palaces