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A loan is the issuing of an item of stock to a member of the library service. A renewal of an item already on loan is counted as an additional loan.

Loans of both physical and electronic materials are included.

How the data can be collected

Library management systems will have the means of extracting and reporting data, and so this should be able to be automated. This may include automated publishing of the data at regular intervals.

Sample data row

Local authority Library name Month Type Loans
Barnet Barnet Book Club 2019-04 Adult audiobook 9

An example for an earlier version of this dataset can be viewed at Barnet loans.

Field notes


Use the format YYYY-MM for the month for which the data is reported.


The type will be the item type the item is categorised under in the library management system.

This should ideally be a human readable value rather than a code. For example ‘Adult Fiction’ rather than ‘ADU_FIC’. The set of types will be those that are used by each library service.


Combining issues and renewals of items into a single count is a method of reporting that was historically used by CIPFA, and is currently used for Public Lending Right data reporting. This means it is most likely to match the current reports that libraries run.

Potential problems

Non-standardised item types

Using item types as they are designed by each library service will mean a lot of variation between similar types of items. For example one service may write ‘Child Fiction’ and another ‘Fiction - Child’.

How the data is updated

To update their loans data, library services can either:

How the data could be used


There are various types of dashboards that could monitor loans within an authority.

The following image shows a tool created by Richard Lynch to display Barnet loans data. The tool is available at UK Library Issues.

A example of a bar chart displaying count of loans across different Barnet libraries.
Loans across a selection of libraries, with options to choose authority, date range, and library.


The tool described above would also support data from other authorities, allowing people to filter or mix data for comparison.

Loans data would also allow libraries to in future use their data to enable the paying of authors through Public Lending Right (PLR). Currently PLR is delivered through a sample set of services, along with CIPFA returns, to allow for estimating full figures. With each library service publishing detailed loans open data (see Future enhancements), the British Library team could collect this information directly from library services only.

The possibility for tools and analysis to see what the nation is reading from libraries would also be an advocacy opportunity.

Future enhancements

Count start/end

A count start/end has been considered instead of the monthly reporting period. The count start and end would be the report period the count is for. Detailed reporting would be encouraged. For example, the reporting could be on a daily basis, in which case the start and end would be the same. This would be good for analysis, such as comparing library use on different days of the week.

The proposal to test a monthly reporting was made at the early testers meeting in November 2019. We look forward to comments on the new column.

Each loan

To make the data more detailed, and to provide greater insight, each individual loan could be reported. This could allow for details such as popular titles and genres in different areas.

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