May 25, 2022

Pew Internet Releases “How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities”

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has just released the latest report in their public library research series.

Library Journal’s Matt Ennis reports on the Pew study here. He was nice enough to include a couple of comments from yours truly. I’ll have more to say in the near future.

Direct to Full Text Report: How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities (44 pages)

Highlights from Report

  • 54% of Americans used a public library in the past year
  • 72% live in a “library household”
  • 55%-34% margin, Americans say they think public libraries have kept up with technological change
  • 52% of Americans said that people do not need libraries as much as they used to because they can find most information on their own, but 46% disagreed with that statement.
  • 95% of Americans agree that the materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed.
  • 81% of Americans ages 16 and older say that public libraries provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere.

No Changes: What About Awareness of What the Library Has to Offer?

Once again we see that many (too many) have little or no idea about what the library has to offer.
Sad but hardly a new issue but one that must improve…immediately. As we’ve said many times, people (potential users) can’t use, appreciate, value about something they don’t know about.

From the Report:

Echoing the findings of our 2012 survey, 23% of those who have ever used a public library said they feel like they know all or most of the service and programs their library offers, while a plurality (47%) said that they know some of what it offers. About one in five (20%) say they don’t know very much about what is offered, and 10% say they know “nothing at all.”

Library Usage During 2013

  • 48% of Americans have visited a library or bookmobile in person in the past year, down from 53% in November 2012.
  • Taken together, this means that 54% of Americans have used a public library in the past year, down from 59% in 2012.
  • 30% of Americans have visited a library website in the past year, up from 25% in 2012
  • Some 90% of Americans ages 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community, with 63% saying it would have a “major” impact.
  • 94% of Americans said that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community.
  • 56% of Americans who use the internet but lack a connection at home say access to library computers, internet, and printers is “very important” to them and their families, compared with 33% of all respondents.
  • 49% of unemployed and retired respondents say they consider librarian assistance in finding information to be “very important,” vs 41% of employed respondents.

Additional Graphics (Many More in Full Report)


Who Was Surveyed For the Report

Pew Research Center survey of 6,224 Americans ages 16 and older, which was in the field from July 18-September 30, 2013. The survey was conducted on landline and cell phones, and in English and Spanish. The margin of error for the entire sample is plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.

Direct to Full Text of 2013 Report: How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities (44 pages)

See Also: Pew Internet Releases New Report on Library Services (Plus Commentary)
Comments about findings in the 2012 edition of the report.  

UPDATE: Here are Comments from ALA President Barbara Stripling About the Report

“I am proud that libraries have earned enormous trust and satisfaction from the American public,” said American Library Association (ALA) President Barbara Stripling. “But we also know that one-third of all Americans still lack home Internet access, and a recent global survey finds U.S. adults lag behind many of their counterparts overseas in basic education skills. Our work is not done, and libraries will continue to innovate and meet evolving needs as new technologies and applications emerge. Libraries are transforming lives through education and help level the playing field for all.”

“The future of libraries is both online and in person—high tech and high touch,” added Stripling. “From children’s storytimes to makerspaces to mobile applications and augmented reality, libraries mix traditional and new services to meet changing community needs. If you haven’t visited your library lately, I invite you to stop by or log on and let us surprise you.”

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.