To present the results of a study of the public library system in Japan and contrast it with that of the UK and the other G8 countries.
Makes comparisons under the headings: libraries per head of population; library use; reference and enquiry services; funding; social capital and social inclusion.
Performance measurement is by its nature culturally dependent, with societies measuring what is important to them at any one time. Social cohesion and inclusion issues are not the same in Japan as in the UK; therefore the services needed from the public library systems are different. The statistics prove that Japan has the busiest public libraries of the G8 countries, but far fewer of them. It is a very densely populated country, with more than 50 per cent of the population concentrated in only 2 per cent of the land mass. Book borrowing in the UK overall is much higher than in other G8 countries, but has fallen in recent years. The culture of public library management is very different in Japan from that of the UK and each has many lessons to learn from the other.
Because of the differences in the two cultures, public libraries fulfil differing needs. Thus the systems used to measure and improve performance will differ. As measuring performance informs strategic development, both countries need to be aware of the wider issues and have much to learn from each other.
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