visits to public libraries trending upwards

The number of public library visits per person in public library service areas rose 30% in the U.S. from 1995 to 2008. Circulation per person increased 20% across this period.[1]  The share of persons and households that use public libraries increased only slightly if at all.[2] These figures suggest that libraries are adapting well to changes in the information economy.

Libraries have long offered more than books.  Early in the twentieth century, public libraries lent prints, magic lantern slides, and piano rolls.  Some included rooms for playing piano.  In 2009, 45% of persons in the U.S. ages 14 and older who used a public library in the past year used a public library’s Internet access. [3]

Cloud services are currently a hot tech trend.  Like Centrex, libraries are a cloud service architecture.

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[1] National Center for Educational Statistics library use data.

[2] According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the share of households containing a person who used public libraries within the past year fell from 65%  in 1996 to 48% in 2002.  See Use of Public Library Services by Households in the United States: 1996 and Households’ Use of Public and Other Types of Libraries: 2002.  Such a large decline seems rather implausible. The 1996 study includes references to surveys in 1991 and 1995 that found the share of adults using a public library in the past year to be 63% and 67% respectively. Based on its U.S. nationally representative survey in 2009, Becker et. al (2010), p. 26, reports 69% of persons ages 14 and older used a public library in the past year.

[3] Becker et al. (2010) pp. 26, 32.


Becker, Samantha, Michael D. Crandall, Karen E. Fisher, Bo Kinney, Carol Landry, and Anita Rocha. (2010). Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries. (IMLS-2010-RES-01). Institute of Museum and Library Services. Washington, D.C.

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