Public libraries in the USA: high expectations, high hopes

The Pew Research Center's 2016 survey of public library usage in the USA reveals libraries held in high regard.

About 48% of the adult population has used their public library over the last 12 months.  Two thirds of them are borrowing printed books.  27% of them are attending events/classes or programmes (up by 10% since last year). 29% of them are using computer facilities.

66% say that the closure of their local library would have a major impact on their community.

How do libraries contribute to the community?

  • 69% of people say local libraries contribute ‘a lot’ to providing a safe place for people to spend time.
  • 58% think they contribute a lot toward creating educational opportunities for people of all ages.
  • 49% believe they contribute a lot to sparking creativity among young people.
  • 47% agree libraries contribute a lot to providing a trusted place for people to learn about new technologies.
  • 38% say they contribute a lot to promoting a sense of community
  • 37% believe they contribute a lot to helping people decide what information they can trust.

What should libraries ‘definitely’ offer?

  • 80% believe libraries should offer programmes to teach people, how to use digital tools
  • 57% think libraries should have more comfortable spaces for reading and working.
  • 50% believe libraries should buy 3-D printers and other digital tools to allow people to use them.
  • 24% say libraries should move some print books and stacks out of public locations in order to free up more space for such things as tech centres, reading rooms and meeting rooms.

Library websites and apps

  • 58% (of those who have used library websites in the past 12 months) have searched the library catalogue.
  • 44% conducted research
  • 40% renewed borrowed items
  • 37% used online databases
  • 31% read book reviews or got reading recommendations

The full research is available here.

1600 adults aged 16 or over were polled.