Last month, the U.S. Institute for Library and Museum Services (IMLS), an agency of the U.S. Government, issued The Public Libraries in the United States Survey Fiscal Year 2010. The Public Libraries in the United States Survey (PLS) is an annual survey that has been conducted since 1989.
Over 98% of public libraries across the U.S. supply data to the IMLS, which analyzes the data and issues a report. The IMLS stated, “This year’s report features nine performance indicators and examines differences in library service” at the cities and suburbs, towns, rural areas and the national level.
On Tuesday, January 22, 2013, Susan H. Hildreth, Director of the IMLS, wrote, in part, the PLS FY 2010 “shows the vitality of public library service in America Public libraries are anchors in their communities, serving a broad constituency with both traditional services and new ones that reflect the changing needs of their populations. According to the report, public libraries served 297.6 million people. With a total U.S. population of more than 308.7 million in that year, it’s easy to see how relevant these community institutions are.”
The report is particularly compelling in documenting the importance of libraries to the nation’s children…
And the relevance of libraries in our digital age is reinforced with the data. Since 2003 the number of e-books in the nation’s public libraries has tripled and in the last ten years the number of public access computers has doubled.
The report reveals other trends. There are decreases in total operating revenue and expenditures for public libraries. While public libraries in America are doing more with less, we see local communities bearing an increasing portion of total public funding for libraries.
Now in its 23rd year, the Public Library Report… covers collection sizes, operating revenue and expenditures, and staffing, as well as performance indicators, such as public Internet computers, circulation, reference transactions and library visits. I’m happy to report that for the first time this year the report goes beyond the national level analysis to look at trends at the local, regional, and state levels. Our online roll-out of the report includes state-by-state profiles that will make it more useful than ever.
We are always pleased to see the variety of ways the findings of the report are used by researchers, members of the media and Congress, and by other public agencies. The PLS provides a universe base file for many surveys of the library community, such as the [American Library Association’s] Public Funding and Technology Access Study and the U.S. Impact Study, which was funded by IMLS and the Gates Foundation. The findings are used for independent library ratings, such as the Library Journal’s LI index of ‘America’s Star Libraries’ and Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings. The data is used in a variety of library locator and search and compare tools, including our own Public Library Locator and the Department of Labor’s American Job Center Locator Service. The data is also used for a variety of local, regional and national community indicator initiatives, including HUD’s Performance Based Planning Measures developed by the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities.
We hope library advocates will continue to find new ways to use the data to show the relevance of America’s public libraries, that policymakers will use them to guide their decisions, and that the public will see the importance of continued support at the local, state, and federal levels.
In FY 2010, there were 8,951 public libraries in the fifty states and the District of Columbia, with 17,078 public library branches and bookmobiles. This total translates to approximately 3 public libraries and 5.8 outlets for every 100,000 people.
Although libraries in cities and suburbs comprise just over a quarter (28.4%) of all public libraries, they serve almost three-quarters (72.5%) of the population. In FY 2010, there were 487 public libraries in cities, 2,055 in suburban areas, 2,222 in towns, and 4,187 in rural areas.
In Illinois, the report indicated there are 622 public libraries and 783 outlets. They serve 11,787,350 people.
“The relatively high use rates and program attendance highlight the public value provided by local libraries at a time of dramatic economic, technology, and demographic change,” the report authors wrote. “The Public Libraries in the United States Survey is one important way of examining when, where and how library services are changing to meet those needs. The data… provides information policymakers and practitioners need to make informed decisions about the support and strategic management of these valuable local assets.”
The authors state in the report, “This year’s data show the continued impact of the U.S. recession on public libraries. Nationally public libraries saw reductions in operating revenue, service hours, and staffing. Yet despite these challenges many public libraries continue to maintain service levels to meet demand. Circulation, program attendance, and computer usage all saw observable increases. Although this year’s survey identified a slight decrease in the per capita visitation it is not clear whether or not this change is due to increased availability of online services (i.e. library card and book renewal, remote use of catalog and databases), a reduction in service hours or resources due to budget cuts, a natural decline from the post-recessionary spikes in 2008 and 2009 or some other variable. Future analysis by IMLS will weigh the relative impact of these different variables in greater detail.”
The report shows that in FY 2010, physical visits to library buildings decreased from the prior year for the first time in ten years. However, “visitation still remains strong.” There was an overall ten-year increase of 32.7%.
On average, Americans visited a public library 5.3 times per year, a ten-year increase of 21.7%. “Although the national visitation rate is down slightly from 2009, the story at the state level is mixed, with most states showing a decrease, but some having increases,” stated the report authors.
In our state, the circulation per capita was 9.71 in FY 2009, and was 10.34 in FY 2010, a 6.6% difference. There were 7.02 visits per capita in FY 2009, and 7.04 in FY 2010, a .4% difference.
Across the U.S., public libraries offered 3,750,000 programs to the public in FY 2010, which amounts to an average of at least one program a day for every library system in the U.S. Over half of these programs, 61.5%, are designed for children. Program attendance has continued to increase, which indicates an increased demand for these services.
In FY 2010, American public libraries circulated 2,460,000,000 items, the highest circulation in ten years. This represents a continued increasing trend. Circulation of children’s materials increased by 28.3% in the last ten years, the report authors found, “and comprises over one-third of all materials circulated in public libraries.”
The report authors note, “The composition of public library collections has changed dramatically in recent years. While books in print continue to dominate the physical portion of the collection, making up 87.1 percent of the total in FY 2010, the share of non-print materials, including audio and video materials and electronic books, has increased. The number of e-books has tripled since FY 2003.”
Public access computer use continued to be one of the fastest growing services in public libraries. In FY 2010, public libraries reported a computer use rate of more than one use for every five visits to the library. Public libraries have responded to demand by increasing access, doubling the number of computers in the past 10 years.
Public libraries had $11,300,000,000 in revenue in FY 2010. That is a lot of money, but it was a 3.5% decrease from FY 2009, after adjusting for inflation. “Although local governments have generally been the largest source of revenue for public libraries, they have had to take on an even larger role as state support declined over 10 years,” the report authors pointed out.
Public libraries reported operating expenditures of $10,770,000,000 in FY 2010, the first decrease since FY 2001. “Although expenditures across all U.S. public libraries were $36.18 per capita, per capita expenditures varied across states,” explained the report authors.
The recession has had an impact on the public library workforce, which has decreased by 6,385 “Full Time Equivalent Librarians” (FTE) staff since FY 2008, a decrease of 3.9%. Staff-related expenditures were $7,210,000,000, 67% of public library expenses in FY 2010. In Illinois, there are 3,109 FTE Librarians and 8,582 FTE Staff.
In the U.S., librarians made up one-third of all public library staff. Although the majority of these librarians hold a Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies (MLS or MLIS degree) from a program accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) – shortened as ALA-MLS – only half of all American public libraries reported having a librarian with an ALA-MLS on staff.