January 20, 2022

New Reports: Trends on Use of Public Libraries, Reading Habits, and Bookstores in U.S.

Three new reports released today by the Humanities Indicators project from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

From HI:

In new releases today, the Humanities Indicators report on measures of U.S. reading habits, noting a recent decline in time spent reading for pleasure and substantial declines in the number of bookstores and visits to public libraries.

Among the key findings:

Public Libraries

  • After rising steadily for almost a decade and a half, per capita visits to libraries declined 13% from 2009 to 2014. Circulation fell 9% from 2010 to 2014.


  • A new interactive feature on the site allows users to compare states with respect to annual number of visits, circulation, and attendance at different types of library programs. (Additional Indicators on public libraries and other public humanities institutions will be published on November 9th.)


  • From 2005 to 2015, the average amount of time Americans spent reading for personal interest fell by six minutes to 21 minutes per day—a small fraction of the time spent watching TV (3 hours, 17 minutes).
  • The average time American adults spent reading for personal interest has declined at every education level, with the largest absolute decline occurring among those with bachelor’s degrees (from 45 to 32 minutes).
  • Americans 75 and older spent an average of 65 minutes per weekend day reading in 2015, but the four youngest age cohorts (ages 15 to 44), spent an average of seven to 12 minutes reading.


  • The number of bookstores at physical locations fell almost every year from 1992 to 2014 (from 13,136 establishments to 6,888), but the decline has slowed in the most recent years for which data are available.

Note: Data is available in multiple formats (.xls, .ppt, and .pdf)

See Also:  Pew: Americans Express Positive Views on Local Libraries But Visits to Library Websites Decline (September 9, 2016)

See Also: Data: Pew Releases Survey Findings on Book Reading by U.S. Adults, Print Books Continue to Dominate (September 1, 2016)

See Also:  New Data About Time Spent Reading for Personal Interest (U.S., 2015)(June 24, 2016)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) 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 Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.