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Patterns of perceived public library outcomes in five countries

Pertti Vakkari (University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland)
Svanhild Aabø (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Oslo, Norway)
Ragnar Audunson (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Oslo, Norway)
Frank Huysmans (University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Nahyun Kwon (Myongji University, Seoul, Republic of South Korea)
Marjolein Oomes (Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Den Haag, Netherlands)
Sei-Ching Joanna Sin (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 14 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to compare the perceived benefits of public libraries between five culturally different countries: Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, South Korea and the USA.


The data were based on representative samples of Finnish, Norwegian, Dutch, Korean and American adult library users. In Finland a mail survey was used and in other countries web surveys were used for data collection. The distribution of the proportion of those benefiting from the library in various areas of life at least sometimes was compared across countries. The pattern of benefits was compared across countries by forming four outcome indexes from the 19 benefit areas. The differences in the outcomes between the countries were explained by demographics and library use variables.


The intensity of perceived benefits differ considerably, with the Finns and Americans reporting a higher level of benefits than the South Koreans, who in turn derive more profit than the Norwegians and the Dutch. The large difference in library supply between Finland and other countries may explain the differences in the perceived benefits in part of other countries but the USA.

Research limitations/implications

The study covered only some socio-economic and library usage factors as independent variables explaining the variation of benefit patterns. A more thorough analysis of library supply between the countries may explain some differences in perceived benefits.

Practical implications

The policy implications of these findings are discussed.


This is the first across-country study comparing and explaining the patterns of perceived benefits between culturally different countries.



Vakkari, P., Aabø, S., Audunson, R., Huysmans, F., Kwon, N., Oomes, M. and Sin, S.-C.J. (2016), "Patterns of perceived public library outcomes in five countries", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 72 No. 2, pp. 342-361.



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