Changes in the usage pattern of public library collections during the COVID pandemic

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The aim of the research was to examine changes in the usage patterns of public library collections during the COVID pandemic. Usage data for e-loans (e-books and e-audio books) and physical loans from two library networks in Sydney (Australia) for 2019–2021 was analyzed. While the use of physical collections dropped to less than half, the use of electronic collections increased by almost as much. E-loans peaked, and physical loans plummeted during lockdowns. However, the increase of e-loans was very small in terms of absolute volume (about a 44 k increase) compared to the decline in physical loans (about half a million decrease), and the use of physical collections did not reach pre-pandemic levels during the period studied. The analysis of subjects and genres of loaned items indicates that users were generally keen to continue reading the sorts of material they had been reading prior to the pandemic, even if this meant switching format, although there were some changes in genre and subject preferences during the lockdowns, which might have been influenced by the circumstances of the individual users. Readers appeared to show particular interest in various nonfiction topics in the initial lockdown (early 2020), with more practical considerations holding sway at this stage of the pandemic, whereas, by the time of the second lockdown (mid-2021), these considerations had been resolved to some extent, and been overtaken by a more “escapist,” or at least a more recreational, attitude on the part of the average user.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-338
Number of pages15
JournalCollection Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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