Membership and visitation

Last updated:  25 March 2024

Libraries need to play an active role in maintaining and increasing library membership and visitation, by promoting the library to non-users and reconnecting with library users and members. 

Registered members are members of the community who have joined their local public library and hold a membership card. Active members are defined as library members who have used their library card in the last three years. 

Visits are visits in person and includes all visits to all service points, including mobile libraries. Many more people use public libraries that are registered members. Visitor numbers includes the use of library services

Best practice resources


Each year the State Library collects statistics from public libraries about public library membership and visitation. Statistics about the number of library members and library visits are included in the annual NSW public library statistics publication. 


S2 Library members as percentage of population and S5 Visits to library per capita in Living Learning Libraries: standards and guidelines for NSW public libraries are recommended quality levels and best practice goals for NSW public libraries. 

Ideas to increase membership and visitation


The use of targeted campaigns to increase membership and visitation. You could include flyers advertising the library with your council rates notices.


Outreach services and programs are offered outside the library to promote library membership, services and programs to existing and potential customers. Outreach needs to take place at locations and times which suit the community and should take place regularly, with different groups and in different locations. Make sure you have facilities for people to join the library and borrow straight away, so include a wi-fi hub. You could try locations such as schools and childcare centres; shopping centres; fairs, festivals and country shows; the local swimming pool or beach; local pubs, sale yards and sporting matches.


Partnerships with local community organisations and businesses can promote community involvement and provide a broader scope of services and information. 

Hidden members

You may have hidden members, customers who, without registering as members, visit your library to read, attend events or programs, use computers, wi-fi or library spaces. These customers will be counted in visits statistics, but not in the membership tally. You should encourage all customers who visit your libraries or use library resources to register as members. 

Community consultation

Surveys of library members and visitors as well as those who do not use the library can help you develop library services to suit local needs. Surveys can also help promote your library services and remind people of what you have to offer.

The State Library has developed a survey template with model survey questions that are recommended for use by NSW Public Libraries to ask users about their experience of library services.


Case study: using behavioural insights to increase use of library services

In  2020 the State Library of NSW partnered with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (Public Spaces Division), the NSW Department of Customer Service’s Behavioural Insights Unit, the Australian Library Information Association and the NSW Public Libraries Association to scope a project with the aim of optimising membership, visitation and satisfaction of selected NSW libraries to improve their social, cultural and place performance.  

The project team worked with Bega Valley Shire Council, City of Sydney, Northern Beaches Council, and Wagga Wagga City Council who applied a behavioural approach aiming to increase use of their library services.  A member survey conducted as part of the project found that the top items that would encourage people to visit their library more include the availability of books and events, flexibility of opening times, awareness of services, and increasing access to library spaces.

The Using behavioural insights to increase access to public libraries report  captures the results of this innovative project delivered between peak bodies, local government, and cross-departmental agencies.