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Journal of Documentation;70(5)
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to compare the perceived benefits of public libraries and their structure in the major areas of life between Finland, Norway and the Netherlands. Design/methodology/approach – The data were based on representative samples of Finnish, Norwegian and Dutch adult library users. In Finland a mail survey was used and in Norway and the Netherlands web surveys were used for data collection. The distribution of the proportion of those benefiting from the library in various areas of life at least sometimes was compared across countries. The structure of benefits was compared across countries by factor analysis. Findings – The results showed that the level of the nineteen benefits observed was considerably higher, and the range of benefits remarkably broader in Finland compared to Norway and the Netherlands. It is likely that the greater supply of library services in Finland compared to the other two countries explains the differences in benefits derived from the public library. The study validated the measurement instrument for the perceived overall outcomes of public libraries. Research limitations/implications – Comparing only three countries is too limited for producing valid results on the relations between the supply of library services and their use and the benefits derived from that use. Analyzing these associations in a larger sample of countries would create reliable results also for policy making. Practical implications – The policy implications of these findings are discussed. Originality/value – This is the first across-country comparison observing perceived benefits of public libraries across major areas of life.