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Library statistics in Africa

October 29, 2010

Collection of library statistics in Africa

  • There is no standard on the type of library statistics to be collected
  • There is no shared position on how data must be collected, analyzed, presented and applied
  • There is a wide gap in the type and frequency of statistics between technologically advanced libraries and those less fortunate
  • There is no national or regional African databases of comparative library statistics available

Use of library statistics for advocacy in Africa

  • There is no clear use of library statistics in Africa for advocacy – because of the limited importance that officials in governments and institutions place on libraries
  • Library support is based on other considerations rather feedback from statistical data on libraries’ use and impact
  • Library statistics in Africa should be used for development aspects e.g. to support literacy programme, agriculture, education and health.

Collection of statistics in South Africa

The collection of library statistics in South Africa is more advanced than the rest of the continent

  • In academic libraries the collection of library statistics is  guided by CHELSA (Committee of Higher Education Libraries in South Africa)
  • CHELSA was established in 2004
  • Its mission is to strive through visionary leadership to ensure that the higher education sector is provided with optimal access to information for the purpose of learning, teaching and research and community development
  • CHELSA identified quality management in higher education libraries as one of its priorities – is response to government’s introduction of quality audits in higher education institutions through HEQC (Higher Education Quality Committee)
    • The development of an agreed upon set of measures to be collected by higher education libraries
    • Development of a Guide to the Self Review of University libraries

Use of library statistics for advocacy in South Africa

  • Statistics collection tends to be quantitative and there is no trend analysis yet
  • There is an absence of readily available centralized sources of library data in the country
  • To a large extent the allocation of university library budgets in South Africa is based on factors other than statistical data that reflect library use and impact
  • There is need for authoritative statistical studies identifying institutions’ standing within a peer group in order to convince institutional executive managements of the need for more resources – it is important to use peer groups that are acceptable to management
  • Many academic libraries have undertaken LibQUAL surveys to solicit, track, understand and act upon users’ opinions of service quality
  • Lack of accurate statistics in the e-arena creates problems for forecasting future trends
  • Presenting statistics in a meaningful way is a challenge for many academic and public libraries in Africa


These notes on library statistics in Africa and South Africa were provided by Elisha Chiware – Director of Libraries Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa – for the GLOSSA planning workshop in the Hague in December 2009.


This document has also been published on the GLOSSA blog.

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