Libraries: place, space and participation

Geographic proximity to the home is important to encourage attendance at leisure centres, but with libraries the picture is more complex.

In a report called Understanding Everyday Participation: The effect of place and space on patterns of participation in libraries and leisure centres, researchers explored the link between geography and attendance at libraries and leisure centres. And the results show a difference between the two. 

The importance of a trip-chain

Individuals are more likely to attend a library as part of a trip-chain during which they attend other facilities such as shops. For libraries, proximity to such assets, e.g. a location in a shopping centre, encourages higher usage.

However, libraries that offer targeted services, aimed at particular communities, are successfully attracting users regardless of their proximity to shops or transport.

Other findings

The libraries with the highest number of users typically have good connectivity to public transport and other local assets, especially supermarkets. They also have longer opening hours and provide a good range of services.

Patterns of use in urban and suburban libraries reflect the impact of ‘relative attractiveness’. Rural and peri-urban libraries have much more localised usage.

Neighbourhood perception and personal attachment (e.g. because of cultural identity) are influential factors in determining the use of particular libraries.

Standalone libraries and leisure centres are as likely to be used as those which are co-located together or with other services such as academies, community hubs or learning centres.

More information
The research is part of the £1.5 million project 'Understanding Everyday Participation- Articulating Cultural Values' funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Creative Scotland and led by Professor Andrew Miles at the University of Manchester.

The full report can be downloaded here:

More information on the University of Leicester website.