More than one billion visits to public libraries in 2015

Survey shows libraries offer more public programs and e-books

Washington, D.C. — 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 2015. IMLS also released a set of state profile reports, for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

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

“In today’s rapidly changing information environment, public libraries are flexing and responding to their communities,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “We see this across indicators of resources, services, and usage. Our findings show robust use of reference services, the addition of more e-books and audio visual materials to collections, and increased use of public access computers, for example. Libraries are offering more programs on everything from early childhood to workforce resources, and public participation is also rising.”

The 2015 report includes the following findings:

  • Nearly 311 million Americans lived within a public library service area in 2015, an increase from 306 million in 2014.
  • In 2015, there were 1.39 billion visits to public libraries, or 4.48 visits per person.
  • Public libraries offered 4.7 million programs in 2015, attended by nearly 107 million people, 5 million more attendees than the previous year.
  • Public libraries made 1.31 billion collection items available to patrons and provided access to over a quarter million internet computers.
  • The number of electronic materials available through public libraries, including audio, video and e-books, continued to grow. E-books, especially, have seen significant growth, increasing from 0.04 e-book per person in 2006 to just over one e-book per person in 2015. (See table below.)
Figure showing total collection materials per person by material type, 2006-2015

With graphs and tables, the state profile reports provide another way to understand the populations served and the services provided by libraries in each state. 

“The new components to this report make its stories, trends, and insights faster and easier to access,” said Benjamin Sweezy, Deputy Director of the IMLS Office of Digital and Information Strategy. “The expanded state profiles, data graphics, and comparison tables make this rich source of library data accessible to new audiences and actionable for government and library leaders across the country.”

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(link is external) and Twitter(link is external).

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