May 17, 2022

In One Year, People Visited Public Libraries More Than a Billion Times, IMLS Publishes FY 2016 Public Library Survey Report; Interactive Data Comparison Tool Also Released

From the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS):

The Public Libraries Survey report, released today by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, provides an annual snapshot of public library use, financial health, staffing, and resources in FY 2016.

Each year since 1988, the Public Libraries of the United States Survey has provided a national census of America’s public libraries. The data are collected from approximately 9,000 public library systems comprised of over 17,000 individual main libraries, library branches, and bookmobiles in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

“Community needs are changing rapidly in today’s world, and public libraries are responding accordingly,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “We’re pleased to release this latest version of IMLS’s annual survey, which demonstrates that libraries are offering more programs ranging from early childhood to workforce development. Community participation also continues to increase—it’s clear that people are using their libraries.”

Figure ES-1. FY2007-FY2016 Total Programs Offered per 1000 People by Program Type, PLS

Highlights from the report include:

  • More than 171 million registered users, representing over half of the nearly 311 million Americans who lived within a public library service area, visited public libraries over 1.35 billion times in 2016.
  • Public libraries offered half a million more programs in 2016 than in 2015; 113 million people attended 5.2 million programs in 2016.
  • The number of electronic materials available through public libraries, including audio, video and e-books, continued to grow in 2016, with public libraries offering over 391 million e-books to their patrons in the United States.

“The PLS continues to be the backbone of research, analysis, and discussion of the current state of today’s public libraries. The report showcases how public libraries are responding to community needs by offering a mix of services, as well as adapting to changing economics and budget environments,” said Benjamin Sweezy, Deputy Director for the Office of Digital Information and Strategy.

New Interactive Tool From IMLS Labs

IMLS has also released Library Search and Compare, which draws on PLS data and was designed iteratively based on user testing. This interactive tool makes it easier for users to access the type of library information they need, allowing libraries to compare their collections, resources, and services to their peers and look up key information on eligibility for federal programs, such as their FSCS code.

Library Search and Compare can be found on the refreshed IMLS Data Catalog site.

Direct to Full Text Report
76 pages; PDF.

Direct to Report and Dataset Archive

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.