Indagine sull'orario delle biblioteche pubbliche dei capoluoghi di provincia

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Dario D'Alessandro


The starting point for this study was Article 22 of Law no. 721 of 23 December 1994 and the subsequent circular of the Ministry of Civil Service. These provisions regard public offices and lay down that at national level the opening hours of said offices should be spread over five days (Monday to Friday) with afternoon opening and Saturday closure. However, exceptions are envisaged for public services of a continuous nature which have to be always open to provide services every day of the week. The aforementioned circular, while envisaging concrete examples of services which should be provided six days a week, fails to mention public libraries.

The study analysed the opening hours of public libraries in provincial capitals in Italy. With but a few exceptions, the data refer to the period May-June 1995. The opening hours examined are the normal opening hours, in other words, no account has been taken of periods of closure due to stock-taking or summer opening hours.

The first finding is that in Italy's 103 provincial capitals every library is a rule unto itself as regards opening hours. There are no less than 19 types of different opening hours with combinations between days of opening and continuous opening hours or those with a break. There are 29 different opening hour regimes if one also includes days with afternoon or morning opening hours only. Within each combination of opening hours, the hours themselves fluctuate to such a point that there is not even a day of the week when at the same time all the public libraries of the 103 provincial capitals are open.

In northern Italy 85% of public libraries are open 6 days a week, in central Italy 92% and in southern Italy only 53%. In northern Italy opening hours average 48 hours and 50 minutes per week, in central Italy this average rises to 49 hours and 10 minutes while in southern Italy it falls to 35 hours and 45 minutes. On a regional basis, the public libraries of Trentino-Alto Adige, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany have by far the longest opening hours; followed by those of Abruzzo and Liguria; at the other end of the scale, the public libraries of Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia have the shortest opening hours. Overall, the situation as regards opening hours is worst in southern Italy, if exception is made for the regions of Campania, Puglia and Basilicata. The gap vis-à-vis northern Italy concerns both the number of days and the total opening hours.

However, if library opening hours are related to city size, there is some uniformity in the average. Another significant element is the number of libraries open six days a week without a break, and those open five and an half days a week. The picture, albeit sketchy, which emerges from this study reflects the attention, more administrative than cultural, of local authorities vis-à-vis libraries which in turn only reflects the reality of Italy with its ever-familiar lack of rules, desire for autonomy and plethora of contradictions.

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