Public Library Visits, Circulation Spike While Staff Numbers Stay the Same: IMLS FY2008 Public Libraries Survey Report

June 30, 2010
 
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

IMLS Press Contacts
202-653-4632
Jeannine Mjoseth, jmjoseth@imls.gov
Mamie Bittner, mbittner@imls.gov

Washington, DC—Public library visits and circulations per capita increased almost 20 percent between FY1999 and FY2008, while the number of public librarians per 25,000 people has remained virtually the same during that same period, according to the FY2008 Public Libraries Survey (PLS) report issued by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The PLS report, which includes information on population of service areas, service outlets, library collections and services, library staff, and operating revenue and expenditures, also found that Americans made 1.5 billion visits to public libraries in FY2008, up from 1.43 billion total visits the previous year.

More than 9,200 libraries were surveyed in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The survey had an impressive 98 percent response rate due to the cooperative efforts of the chief officers of State Library Agencies, IMLS, and the Census Bureau.

"This year, the FY2008 Public Library Survey incorporates a new set of geographic identifiers called locale codes, which will help researchers and practitioners organize library data according to the community served, whether it’s a remote rural area or a densely-populated center city neighborhood," said IMLS Acting Director Marsha L. Semmel. "Locale codes will be a useful new tool for examining the diverse ways that public library services impact local communities."

The report includes a number of key findings that will assist the library community and local, state, and national policymakers in making decisions to better their communities.

 

  • Library visitation per capita has steadily increased over the past 10 years. In FY2008, the average individual in a library service area visited the library just over 5 times (5.1), compared to 4.3 visits per person in 1999, an increase of 19.7 percent. Overall, there were 1.50 billion public library visits in FY2008, up from 1.43 billion total visits the previous year (Figure 1).
  • The availability of Internet terminals has nearly doubled over the past 10 years in response to patron demand; Internet PCs per 5,000 people rose from 1.9 in FY1999 to 3.7 in FY2008. Internet PC uses per capita have remained at the same basic level since FY2006. There were 1.16 Internet uses per person in FY2006, 1.22 Internet uses per person in FY2007 and 1.21 Internet uses per person in FY2008.
  • Circulation per capita has also generally increased during the past 10 years, increasing by 19.7 percent since FY1999, when per person circulation stood at 6.5. The nation's libraries recorded 7.7 circulations per capita in FY2008, up from 7.4 the previous year.
  • Children's program attendance at public libraries gradually rose during the study period, increasing from 181.7 children's program attendances per 1,000 people in FY1999 to 206.8 program attendances per 1,000 people in FY2008, an increase of 13.9 percent. Overall program attendance is on the rise as well, increasing 17.6 percent from FY2004 to FY2008.
  • The number of public librarians per 25,000 people has remained more or less the same over the past 10 years, hovering around 4.0 (Figure 12). There were 4.0 librarians per 25,000 people in FY1999 and 4.1 in FY2008 (Figure 2).
  • This year?s report includes a graphic showing the distribution of library outlets by state and geography type. A large number of the library outlets in the country are located in rural areas. In a sizable portion of the states (16 of the 50) more than 50 percent of their outlets are located in rural areas.
Per Capita: Visitation in US Public Libraries, FY1999-FY2008
Click on image for larger view.

 

Figure 1: Per Capita: Visitation in US Public
Libraries, FY1999-FY2008
Source: Public Libraries Survey, FY1999-FY2008, IMLS/NCES

 

 

 

Public Libraries: Librarians per 25,000 People, FY1999-FY2008
Click on image for larger view.

Figure 2: Public Libraries: Librarians per
25,000 People, FY1999-FY2008
Source: Public Libraries Survey, FY1999-FY2008, IMLS/NCES

 

 

 

 

The FY2008 survey is the 21st in the series. On October 1, 2007, responsibility for the PLS was transferred to IMLS from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), along with the State Library Agencies survey. The U.S. Census Bureau collects the data under a contract with IMLS.

For more information on library statistics, visit http://www.imls.gov/statistics.

The report is available in PDF format. http://harvester.census.gov/imls/pubs/pls/index.asp

The FY2008 PLS data files and documentation were released on May 21, 2010. http://harvester.census.gov/imls/data/pls/index.asp

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit www.imls.gov.