Chart of the week: Public libraries in the COVID-19 pandemic

Chart of the week: Public libraries in the COVID-19 pandemic


Published in The Pulse

Edmonton Public Library (EPL) released its annual report for 2020 which shows that some of its services took a hit over the past year, while others flourished.

This chart visualizes the statistics included in the report, showing how much the use of various EPL services increased or decreased in 2020 compared to the previous year.

In-person visits and related services like borrowing physical media declined sharply, as did the number of memberships. The report primarily credits the COVID-19 pandemic for that difference.

The pandemic not only discouraged Edmontonians from gathering indoors, but libraries were shut down for several months beginning in March 2020. On April 6, 2021, the EPL closed again as the provincial government moved Alberta back to Step 1 of its reopening plan.

According to the report, most of the library's digital resources saw a spike in use. For example, users borrowed more than double the amount of eVideos than in 2019, and accessed online databases 70% more often.

The report notes EPL's exploration of "innovative ways to increase access to digital resources (and) maintain availability of physical materials," over the course of the pandemic.

Efforts to move educational classes online and generate new video content is said to be part of the reason for the increase in digital service use, while new contactless checkout and curbside pickup are credited with allowing customers to continue borrowing physical materials, indicating the drop in use could have been much worse.