Facts about Alberta public libraries

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

Library boards and service points

  • 221 municipal library boards responsible for serving Albertans
  • 7 regional library systems serving 211 library boards, 308 municipalities and 271 library service points
  • 326 library service points across Alberta


  • 317 out of 350 (91%) municipalities provide access to municipal library service
  • 33 municipalities do not provide any level of public library service (many of these are Summer Villages)
  • 4,191,596 Albertans (based on 2018 population) have access to a public library: 99.7% of the total provincial population
  • Only 0.3% of the provincial population does not have access to public library service

Library use

In 2018:

  • People in Alberta had access to over 14 million books, CDs, DVDs, eBooks and other materials at Alberta public libraries (3.34 library items per capita).
  • There were 1,538,569 library cardholders in Alberta, representing 37% of the population.
  • People in Alberta borrowed over 37 million items from public libraries.
  • Alberta libraries circulated 8.9 items per person.
  • People in Alberta visited their libraries in person over 21 million times.
  • People in Alberta visited their libraries virtually through their library's website over 28 million times.
  • Over 1.7 million people took part in one of the over 104,000 programs offered by Alberta's libraries.

Library funding

In 2018:

  • Provincial operating grants to public library boards (municipal and system) totaled $30,132,755, representing 13% of total library operating revenue.
  • The province also expended $4,841,109 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 $34,973,864.
  • Municipal contributions (including in-kind support) to public library boards (municipal and system) totaled $173,295,301. This represented 73% of total library operating revenue.
  • Public libraries spent $15,125,953 on library materials ($3.61 per capita served).

In the 5-year period between 2013 and 2018:

  • Local funding support for public libraries increased by 24%.
  • Provincial grants to public library boards increased by 18%.
  • Provincial network support remained stable.
  • Population served by public libraries increased by 10%.

Employment and hours

In 2018:

  • There were 2,135 (full-time equivalent) employees in public libraries. In addition, there were 143 full-time employees in library systems. In total, there were 2,278 full-time employees devoted to public library service in Alberta.
  • Public libraries were open on average 36.70 hours per week.

Source: Public Library Statistics, 2018, Public Library Services Branch (PLSB).

Provincial monetary support

The role of the provincial government in public library service delivery is to:

  • support equitable access to library service
  • maintain a governance structure
  • provide funding assistance
  • establish and support a provincewide resource-sharing network

The provincial government, through the PLSB, provides monetary support in a variety of ways.

Operating grants

The primary means by which the provincial government supports public library service is through annual operating grants to library boards.

In 2018, provincial grants from PLSB to municipal and system library boards totalled $30,132,755 ($21,398,524 to municipal library boards and $8,734,231 to system library boards). This support equals $7.19 per capita served.

For more information, see public library statistics.

Public library network support

The provincial government also provides network support to enable provincewide sharing of public library resources. Public library network support provided by PLSB totalled $4,841,109 in 2018. This included:

  • $2,234,014 for SuperNet connectivity for all Alberta public libraries participating in the Public Library Network
  • $742,776 to cover the cost of interlibrary loan delivery
  • $451,861 to cover the costs for service to broker provincewide, national and international interlibrary loans from all types of libraries, as well as for the ME Libraries initiative
  • $1,170,334 for public library access to a variety of electronic resources
  • $242,124 for public library access to resources for the print-disabled

Total provincial support

In 2018, total provincial support for public library service (as provided by PLSB) totalled $34,973,864 or $8.34 per capita served.

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 2018, local appropriation provided by municipalities to local library boards totalled $162,507,516. This accounted for 77.2% of all revenue generated for public library service.

In addition to providing monetary support to the local board, most municipalities in Alberta (308) also participate in regional library systems, which leverage the power of cooperation to greatly enhance local public library service delivery.

In 2018, municipalities contributed $10,787,785 for library system service.

In 2018, municipalities provided:

  • $159,669,518 to municipal library boards directly
  • $2,837,998 in expenditures on behalf of municipal library boards
  • $10,787,785 to system library boards

This amounts to a total of $173,295,301 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.

Statistical reports and charts

2018 data

In 2018, the provincial local appropriation per capita was $42.48 (total local appropriation given to all municipal library boards divided by the total population served by all municipal library boards).

Each year we also recognize those municipalities that provide the greatest level of support to their local library board.

This 'top thirty' list contains municipalities of all sizes, demonstrating that you don't have to be big to do great things.

A corresponding list of "all stars" highlights those municipalities that provide strong, consistent support over time.

For more information, see public library statistics.


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