Public Libraries Around the World

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You might think that public libraries are only found in cities and suburban communities in developed countries, but take one look at this map (PDF) and you’ll realize that they actually exist in many developing countries too. In Kenya: 58 libraries. In Peru: 729. In Indonesia: 1,598 public libraries.

What are all these libraries doing? In many cases, they are addressing their community’s development goals: supporting entrepreneurs in Vietnam, providing vital health information in Nepal and Kenya, or helping their citizens to be engaged, informed, and involved in Honduras and Romania. Wherever they are, libraries drive development.

Development in the 21st century demands access to information. At a time of tight budgets, libraries offer a more efficient, smarter way of doing development. Most countries around the world, regardless of their size or level of development have public libraries. Beyond Access is starting a movement to make them all hubs for economic and social change. We believe that libraries power development.

Today, there are more than 230,000 public libraries in developing and transitioning countries. Let’s make them all engines for development. Visit, get updates and get involved.

Beyond Access is an initiative of IREX, EIFL, IFLA, Makaia, Civic Regeneration, TASCHA, the Riecken Foundation, and READ Global, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.