Public library statistics

Facts and statistics about library use and funding in Alberta.

Statistical reports and charts

The statistics are a result of the compilation of the data from the Annual Report as completed by Alberta's library boards.

Facts about Alberta public libraries

  • Library boards and service points

    • 220 municipal library boards responsible for serving Albertans
    • 7 regional library systems serving 209 library boards, 304 municipalities and 271 library service points
    • 327 library service points across Alberta
  • Library facts

    In 2021:

    • People in Alberta had access to over 17 million books, CDs, DVDs, eBooks and other materials at Alberta public libraries (4.31 library items per capita).
    • There were 1,514,904 library cardholders in Alberta, representing 36% of the population.
    • People in Alberta borrowed over 32 million items from public libraries.
    • Alberta libraries circulated 7 items per person.
    • People in Alberta visited their libraries in person almost 7 million times.
    • People in Alberta visited their libraries virtually through their library's website over 22 million times.
    • Just under 1 million people took part in one of the approximately 35,3000 programs offered by Alberta's libraries.
    • 313 out of 341 (92%) municipalities provide access to municipal library services.
    • 28 municipalities do not provide any level of public library service (many of these are Summer Villages).
    • 4,185,558 Albertans have access to a public library: 99.8% of the total provincial population.
    • Only 0.2% of the provincial population does not have access to public library service.
    • There were 1,821 (full-time equivalent) employees in public libraries. In addition, there were 144 full-time employees in library systems. In total, there were 1,965 full-time employees devoted to public library service in Alberta.
    • Public libraries were open on average 30.28 hours per week.
  • Library funding

    In 2021:

    • Provincial operating grants to public library boards (municipal and system) totaled $30,102,280, representing 13% of total library operating revenue.
    • The province also expended $4,231,493 to support the provincial library network. This included funds for SuperNet connectivity for all public libraries, electronic resources and the resource sharing network.
    • Total provincial support for public library service amounted to $34,333,773, or $8.20 per capita served.
    • Municipal contributions (including in-kind support) to public library boards (municipal and system) totaled $175,970,206. This represented 77% of total library operating revenue.
    • Public libraries spent $21,077,416 on library materials ($5.04 per capita served).

    In the 5-year period between 2016 and 2021:

    • Local funding support for public libraries increased by 13%.
    • Provincial grants to public library boards increased by 1.2%.
    • Provincial network support remained stable.
    • Population served by public libraries increased by 4%.

Provincial monetary support

The provincial government, through the Public Library Services Branch (PLSB), provides monetary support in a variety of ways.

Municipal monetary support

In Alberta, the municipality is one of the foundations for public library service delivery, along with the library board and the province.

In order to fulfil its role, the province is reliant on a robust municipal base upon which to layer its support.

The following resources demonstrate the strong support Alberta's library boards receive from their municipalities.

  • Total municipal operating support

    In 2021, local appropriation provided by municipalities to local library boards totalled $164,665,294. This accounted for 76.6% of all revenue generated for public library service.

    In addition to providing monetary support to the local board, most municipalities in Alberta (304) also participate in regional library systems, which leverage the power of cooperation to greatly enhance local public library service delivery.

    In 2021, municipalities provided:

    • $162,127,622 to municipal library boards directly
    • $2,537,672 in expenditures on behalf of municipal library boards
    • $11,304,912 to system library boards

    This amounted to a total of $175,970,206 in municipal operating support for public library service in Alberta, providing a solid foundation upon which the provincial government can layer its support.

  • Local appropriation

    Local appropriation is the amount of monetary support a municipality allocates to its municipal library board in operating funds for delivery of public library service in the municipality (which often entails the operation of the municipal library). It can take 2 forms:

    • an amount of money appropriated from the local tax base and transferred directly to the library board
    • an amount of money expended by the municipality on behalf of the library board for library purposes (for example, utilities, building maintenance, audit or financial review)

    Local appropriation per capita is the local appropriation (as defined above) divided by the current population of the municipality served by the library board (as delineated in the Municipal population lists).

    This figure allows for the comparison of relative support across different population sizes. A board in a smaller centre can compare the support it receives from its municipality to boards in larger centres.


Connect with the Public Library Services Branch:

Phone: 780-427-4871
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: [email protected]

17th Floor, Commerce Place
10155 102 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T5J 4L4