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Does size matter? In-library study of two Canadian public library branches

John Shepherd (School of Business, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, Canada)
Larissa Petrillo (Faculty of Arts, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, Canada)
Allan Wilson (University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, Canada)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 14 November 2019

Issue publication date: 8 January 2020




The purpose of this paper is to summarize a library use study of the central and community branches of a Canadian public library. An exit survey documented the in-branch activities of users as a part of a library strategic planning process. Survey results were used in combination with branch statistics, postal code circulation statistics, neighbourhood demographics and other data sources to document the in-library use of the two facilities.


Questionnaires were administered to library users 15 years of age or older at the exits of the central and community branches. The survey collected data on their activities and services used during their current visit. Additional sources such as branch-level statistics, furniture tally sheets, photographs, Canada Census data and circulation analysis by patron postal code and lending branch were used during the analysis stage.


Both branches are heavily used but in different ways. Branch circulation and gate count per square foot of floor space were high relative to other Canadian libraries. Patron visits to the community branch were short in duration, in line with previous public library studies. User visit duration and in-library activities within the main branch somewhat resembled those of the central branch of a larger library system but likely for different reasons.

Research limitations/implications

The study was exploratory. Data were collected during two coinciding days of library operation, a Thursday and a Saturday, and may not be representative of the underlying population. The study was limited in scope as it was a community service project for undergraduate university students.

Practical implications

Branch library use surveys, in combination with library statistics and demographics, can provide useful insights concerning in-library patron behaviour when the use of ethnographic techniques is not feasible.


The study explored differences and similarities in user behaviour in two types of library facilities, a central and a community branch. Few published studies make such a direct comparison. The study explored the perceived benefits received by patrons from public library use and incorporated branch statistics, circulation analysis and Census data.



Shepherd, J., Petrillo, L. and Wilson, A. (2020), "Does size matter? In-library study of two Canadian public library branches", Library Management, Vol. 41 No. 1, pp. 1-13.



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