May 20, 2022

IMLS Releases New Report With FY2012 U.S. Public Library Statistics, More Than 1.5 Billion Trips to Public Libraries During Year

From the Institute of Museum and Library Services:

In 2012, Americans made 1.5 billion trips to public libraries in the United States — the equivalent of more than 4.1 million visits each day, according to new research by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The research indicates there is still a high demand for the resources and services of the nation’s approximately 9,000 public libraries.

Today, IMLS released the report for the Public Libraries in the United States Survey: Fiscal Year 2012 an analysis of the most comprehensive annual data collection of U.S. public library statistics. Ninety-seven percent of public libraries in the 50 states and the District of Columbia contribute data for the survey, which is now in its 26th year. The survey report provides analysis of 13 key indicators of library investments and library use, and profiles for each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.


Fiscal Year 2012 was marked by a stabilization of post-recession declines in revenue, staffing, visitation, and circulation at the nation’s public libraries. Measures of public library use and resources remained similar to prior year levels. While revenue has stabilized, a greater share is coming from local governments, and in FY 2012, there was a 13.2 percent increase in revenues from other sources.

Libraries are offering more public programs, including programs for children, and are seeing greater program attendance than in previous years. Public libraries are also adding more to their digital holdings, including e-books and downloadable audio and video. Spending on electronic materials has doubled since Fiscal Year 2003. Although libraries continue to provide public access computers and Internet access, use of public access computers has seen a two-year decrease of 7.4 percent. The decrease may be the result of customers’ use of their own devices such as laptops, smart phones, and tablets to connect to public libraries’ Wi-Fi.

Key Findings

There were 1.5 billion in-person visits to public libraries across the United States, similar to FY 2011 levels. This was a 10-year increase of 10.2 percent.

The public invested over $11.5 billion in revenue to public libraries. This was similar to FY 2011 levels, after adjusting for inflation. Revenue has declined after a peak in FY 2009, but is up 7.2 percent over 10 years.

More than 92.6 million people attended the 4.0 million programs at public libraries. Attendance showed a 1-year increase of 5.2 percent and a 10-year increase of 54.4 percent.

Direct to Resources

Fast Facts From Public Library Survey FY2012

IMLS Public Library Survey FY2012

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.