Get your GLAM on – what unites and divides us in this sector

For our “last” blog entry, I naturally assumed I would find myself arguing about whether Game of Thrones should be used to theme a collection to draw more people into libraries. Or perhaps I would write about where influence comes from in popular culture. And whether Rowling owes Le Guin half her royalties from the Harry Potter franchise just because they both have a boy wizard and a wizarding school.

(Pro tip: she doesn’t. Not even close.)

No, instead this week I’ve decided to build on my nerdy idea of graphing where the GLAM industries sit in relation to each other, and using the data as a platform for discussion. Because I can’t help myself.

Originally I thought about using ‘entertainment’ as a factor in drawing up some matrices plotting out each of the GLAM industries (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums for those playing at home). That idea seemed half baked at the time, so I considered it more, wondering what other ways I could use to differentiate each of the industries.

Then I did some reading. The CSIRO put out this marvellous report in 2014 that talks about innovation in the GLAM sector. It also categorises each of the industries pretty thoroughly , and includes stats about their usage and patronage. And using all of that, here’s some graphs I mocked up!
(Please note unless otherwise stated, all numbers crunched below come from the same 2014 report into GLAM innovation).

Figure 1. Generated from data table “GLAM Sector: Revenue, staffing and volunteer resources, 2012/13” on p. 4 of the GLAM Innovation Study

I found there was an interesting correlation between the amount of revenue that institutions generated and the number of employees staffed by each industry. Libraries pulled $1.2 billion dollars during FY13 – more than any of the other industries. However, 93% of that revenue came from government funding. Archives also receive some heavy government support at 90% of revenue. But seeing as their revenue for that financial year was ‘only’ $140m, perhaps they need it.

Libraries also employed more staff than any other GLAM industry during that timeframe – 12, 470 to be precise. Museums had the next highest number of employees after that at 5,150, which is less than half of what libraries have. This makes sense when you consider that libraries operate from 1,500 locations, compared to the 1,200 locations that museums operate from.

Did I mention how much I love numbers? Let me crunch some more for you, dear readers.

Figure 2. Generated from data table “Levels of public access and size of collections” on p. 5 of the GLAM Innovation Study

What I love about these two Figures is that between them, their quadrant placements have not changed. You can draw some fascinating correlations between the sets of data as a result.

Libraries and museums receive more visitors through their doors than archives or galleries do. This seems to go hand in hand with Figure 1’s evidence of libraries and museums employing more people.

But what I really want to discuss is the Y axis that I have chosen in Figure 2: “archival material (measured in km). Based on the table given in the GLAM Innovation report, there were some interesting methods of recording the nature of each industry’s collections. Archival material was shown as a measure of shelf space (which on this scale is apparently so big it needs kilometers, so that’s rad). Only libraries and archives measure their collections in this manner. However, I’m obliged to point out that libraries only measure their archival material in this manner, and count the other objects in their collection in the same manner as galleries and museums. But that would have ruined the flow of my matrices, so I politely ignored that fact while making my graph.

So, what’s the point of all of these charts, apart from satisfying my creepy need for showing people weird connections and patterns that I find interesting? Perhaps it’s a visual representation of where libraries can find their closest allies when they choose to work together. But just because libraries have more in common with museums and archives, does that mean that galleries have nothing to offer libraries at all? I mean, this is only two sets of specific data, and not the whole picture.

What these graphs, sadly, do not do is show people the more nuanced information about what makes a library a library. You could use these as a simplistic way of explaining the differences to the general public. But when you operate inside of this sphere, you know that the industry in practice is not so black and white. The data sets themselves are introduced early in the GLAM Innovation report, before the authors move on to the meat – the current projects that GLAMs have already shared in together, and the future advancements that can, and should, follow.

That’s all from me, I hope you enjoyed my little experiment into extraneous information.



  1. Stephanie Harland

    Hi Bec. I’m not sure if you’ve seen my post on whether the SLQ is a library or a museum? Do you have any opinions on that? To me, it seems to be a combination of both. I hear they do a lot of research there, so maybe that also qualifies it as an archive? But certainly, I agree with your graph that galleries seem the least related to libraries. The other 3 seem to ‘active’ (there’s some form of interaction) when it comes to presenting information, but galleries are ‘passive’ (you only look, but don’t interact).

    • Bec

      Hi Steph, no I hadn’t seen your blog entry but I’ll be sure to comment on it now!
      In terms of active vs passive, I think the archives sector in Australia also has a passivity to it, but in a different way. In the report I linked above they only saw 1.6 million visitors in the same time that libraries saw 104.7 million. You also usually visit the archives when you have a very specific purpose – you wouldn’t just go there to ‘browse’ unless you were a particular type of person. Though I only say this from personal experience, I don’t make it a habit to go to archives!

  2. Anitra Ross

    Hi Bec, love the graphs! Chloe P in her blog @chloepickard also looks at the CSIRO report through the lens of digitisation. I was actually thinking of visiting the Archive as a review (chose something else instead) as BCC has a great guide on researching the history of your home ( & I have never used one & now I see other people have not either! Anitra


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