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2013 Public Libraries Survey Shows Libraries Responding to Changing 21st Century Needs

From the IMLS:

Washington, DC—Research by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) found IMLSLogoshifts in Americans’ interaction with public libraries’ materials, programs and services in Fiscal Year 2013. Public Libraries in the United States Survey: Fiscal Year 2013 reveals key indicators of investments and library usage at public libraries in the United States. The survey report, which had a 97 percent response rate, describes findings from public libraries in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. With the available survey data, the report provides aggregated local, state and national information about the nation’s 9,000 public libraries and their 16,500 branches and bookmobiles.

The survey shows that 96 percent of the total U.S. population, or 304.8 million people, lived within a public library service area in 2013, and Americans made an average of almost four million visits each day to public libraries that year. While this is an 8.2 percent decrease since a peak in visitation in 2009, it is a 17.6 percent increase over 10 years. Similar to retailers and businesses, public libraries are increasing their online presence, and library patrons can access more materials, resources and services online.

Access to public computers and the Internet continue to be important library offerings, though the survey shows shifting usage. Sessions on public access computers have decreased since 2010. While use of public library Wi-Fi by patrons who bring their own devices to the library is not measured, the survey may indicate a decline in public library computer use due to growth in this behavior.

Libraries are offering more programs and the public’s participation in those programs is increasing. For many communities, public programs fulfill critical K-12 learning as well as lifelong informational needs related to digital and financial literacy, employment and job training and healthcare and wellness. Libraries increasingly enhance their learning programs by linking them to community support services. There is also a long-term increase in the number of children and young adults attending library programs. In addition to story hours and summer reading programs, children’s libraries provide an increasing number of programs to foster early learning, school readiness and Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) learning. Many libraries are now creating learning spaces where young adults can be both consumers and creators of content.

“The data from the Public Library Survey tell the story of how public libraries all across America are being responsive to the needs of communities,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “Patrons value public libraries as safe places where they can bring their children to attend a program or meet others. They value the classes and access to e-government and other community services. Additionally, library customers value round-the-clock access to digital books, audio and video. I am proud that IMLS funding and research reveals the continued important role that public libraries play as valued institutions in communities across the nation.”

Other highlights of the findings include:

  • There were 96.5 million attendees at almost 4.3 million public programs at public libraries in FY 2013, an increase in attendance of 28.6 percent for all programs since 2006.The role of public libraries as community gathering places is bolstered by these increases.
  • Attendance at children’s programs has increased by 29.7 percent over 10 years, with 67.4 million attendees at children’s programs and 6.1 million attendees at programs for young adults.
  • In FY 2013, 6,569 public libraries reported having e-books, an increase of 14.6 percent from FY 2012.
  • In addition to e-books, public libraries provide access to digital, audio and video materials. Like e-books, these materials can be downloaded and used either on devices loaned by the library or on patrons’ personal devices. Additionally, 67.3 percent of public libraries offered downloadable audio materials in FY 2013.
  • Public libraries circulated 2.4 billion materials of all types and formats in FY 2013, a 10-year increase of 25.4 percent. Libraries lent 835.6 million children’s books and materials in FY 2013. This is a 10-year increase of 22.7 percent.
  • There were 333.9 million user sessions on public access computers. This is a decrease of 9.2 percent from FY 2010.
  • In FY 2013, the public invested over $11.5 billion in revenue to public libraries. After adjusting for inflation this reflects no change from the previous year and a 10-year increase of 7.5 percent.

 Follow this link for access to the Public Library Survey data and the full report:

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