July 16, 2020

People Visited Public Libraries More Than a Billion Times in One Year
Survey Shows Libraries Offered More Public Programs, E-books

Washington, DC—The Public Libraries Survey report, released today by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, provides a snapshot of public library use, financial health, staffing, and resources in FY 2017.

Each year since 1988, the Public Libraries of the United States Survey has provided a national census of America’s public libraries. The data is collected from approximately 9,000 public library systems comprised of over 17,000 individual main libraries, library branches, and bookmobiles in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

“Libraries continue to connect with their communities and provide services that support the needs and interests of their patrons, including access to digital materials,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “We are pleased to share the latest version of IMLS's annual survey, which shows that attendance at library events is up, indicating an understanding of what the community wants from their library.”

The 2017 report includes the following findings:

  • More than 172 million registered users, representing 55% of the 312 million Americans who lived within a public library service area, visited public libraries 1.32 billion times in 2017. In other words, on average, each American visited a public library over 4 times.
  • Public libraries offered 200,000 more programs in 2017 than in 2016, up to 5.6 million from 5.4. Over 118 million people attended these programs in 2017, an increase in attendance of 5 million from the prior year. Children and young adult programming make up the majority of all programming in the United States.
  • The number of electronic materials available through public libraries, including audio, video and e-books, continued to grow in 2017, with public libraries offering over 463.5 million e-books to their patrons in the United States.
Figure 2-9. Total Programs Offered per 1,000 People by Program Type, FY 2008–17
Figure 2-10. Total Program Attendance per 1,000 People by Program Type, FY 2008–17

“The PLS provides important data that allows IMLS to research, analyze, and discuss the state of America’s libraries,” said Scott Carey, Chief Information Officer of IMLS and Deputy Director of the IMLS Office of Digital and Information Strategy. “Gathering the information annually helps us to see how communities are interacting with their local libraries and where additional focus may be needed.”

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 libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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