How Libraries Stack Up: 2010

Every year, Americans visit the library more often than we go to movies or sporting eventsEarlier this year, OCLC, a non-profit library cooperative, published a colorful and eye-opening two-page report on the state of American public libraries in 2010.  The report, entitled How libraries stack up: 2010 provided ten statistics illustrating how Americans use libraries today.  Most of the services highlighted in the report, such as assistance for job seekers, are offered by the fourteen libraries of the Aiken-Bamberg-Barnwell-Edgefield Regional Library system.  The libraries are managing to provide these services despite several years of flat or declining revenue.

One statistic from the report which particularly impressed me was the number of annual visits to U.S. public libraries in 2007: 1.4 billion.  We Americans, according to this report, visit public libraries more often than we attend movies (1.3 billion visits per year) and six times more often then we attend sporting events, which clocks in at a paltry 218 million visits!

I’m drawn to this statistic because it makes me feel more in step with my fellow Americans, which is a nice change.  Like many other people in this report, I visit the library often.  However, I’ve only seen three movies in the theater since 2004.  As for live sporting events, I’ve seen only four horse races since I moved to Aiken in 1992.  Fortunately, I brought along a library book to read when I got bored which, for me, is three to five minutes into any sports event. 

I’m pleasantly surprised by this statistic because it flies in the face of American pop culture as reflected by the Today Show, morning radio deejays, and the features section of USA Today newspaper.  From these outlets, it’s easy to get the impression that everyone in American is keenly interested in which movie sold the most tickets Saturday night or which star athlete is being traded.  But I’m not so sure that is the case.

I’ve been providing copies of this report to our State and county officials since its release.  I’m hoping they will be pleasantly surprised by the library statistics, too, and support public libraries as avidly as public libraries support their communities.


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