QUOTABLE FACTS ABOUT AMERICA’S LIBRARIES

Did You Know?

  • 58% of adults in the U.S. have public library cards.
  • Americans go to school, public and academic libraries more than three times more often than they go to the movies.
  • Reference librarians in the nation’s public and academic libraries answer nearly 6.6 million questions weekly. Standing single file, the line of questioners would span from Ocean City, Maryland to Juneau, Alaska.
  • A 2012 poll conducted for the American Library Association found that 94% respondents agreed that public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed because they provide free access to materials and resources.

Technology Trends

  • Academic libraries held approximately 158.7 million e-books and public libraries held more than 18.5 million in fiscal year 2010.
  • A 2011 Pew study found that about 24% of library card holders had read e-books in the past year. Of them, 57% preferred borrowing e-books and about 33% preferred purchasing them.
  • The 2011-2012 ALA Libraries Connect Communities study reported that 76.3 percent of libraries reported offering e-books, an increase of 9 percent from 2010-2011.

Public Libraries

  • There are more public libraries than McDonald’s in the U.S. – a total of 16,766 including branches.
  • Americans spend nearly three times as much on candy as they do on public libraries.
  • Americans check out an average of more than eight books a year. They spend $35.81 a year for the public library – about the average cost of one hardcover book.
  • Almost 89 percent of public library outlets now offer wireless Internet access.
  • More than 92% of public libraries provide services for job seekers.

Academic Libraries

  • Academic librarians provide information that serves more than 44 million each year – reaching almost 12 million more than attend college basketball games.
  • College libraries receive just less than three cents of every dollar spent on higher education.
  • If the cost of People magazine had risen as fast as the cost of academic library periodicals since 1990, it would cost about $182 for a one-year subscription.
  • There are 584 students enrolled for every librarian in 2- and 4-year colleges and universities in 2010 the U.S. as compared with 14 students for each teaching faculty member.

School Libraries

  • Research shows the highest achieving students attend schools with well-staffed and well-funded library media centers.
  • The average copyright year for health and medicine titles in school libraries is 1996 – a student using these resources would not learn about the cloning of Dolly the sheep (1997) or that the United Kingdom handed sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China (1997).
  • Students make 1.3 billion visits to school library media centers during the school year, the same as attendance made to movie theaters in 2011, or three times as many visits to national parks.
  • Americans spend over 18 times as much money on home video games ($18.6 billion) as they do on school library materials for their children ($1 billion).
  • School libraries spend an average of $12.06 per student on library media – about two-thirds the cost of a single fiction title ($17.63) or about one-third the cost of a single non-fiction title ($27.04).

September 2012: American Library Association (ALA)

For more information see the ALA Quotable Facts - Annotated Version.