May 26, 2022

New Data Analyses From Humanities Indicators Describe the Finances, Holdings, and Usage of the Nation’s Public Libraries

From Humanities Indicators/American Academy of Arts and Sciences:

New analyses from the Humanities Indicators describe the finances, holdings, and usage of the nation’s public libraries.


As print holdings continue to decline, public libraries’ audio, visual, and ebook holdings have increased dramatically. Per capita ebook holdings alone increased by more than 6,400% from 2004 to 2018.

Though circulation and in-person visits have dropped, attendance at library programs has increased steadily over the past decade.

Looking at the country as a whole, the increase in the number of internet-access computers available via the nation’s public libraries has outpaced population growth. As of 2018, however, such availability was far greater in some states than others.

After adjusting for inflation, libraries’ 2018 per capita expenditure level reflects a near-complete return to the 2009 peak level after several years of decline and then stasis in library spending. Local government remains the primary funder of libraries. In 2018, the share of library revenues coming from state and Federal government was substantially smaller than two decades earlier. 

Growth in the number of public librarians kept pace with population growth over the 1995–2018 time period. The share of librarians who have a master’s degree from an American Library Association–accredited program also held steady (at approximately 70%).


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.