Facts about Public Libraries

Libraries are busier than ever.

The current economic climate has made libraries an even more vital part of their communities. It’s a national phenomenon reflected in our local library system.

  • 68 percent of Americans have a library card
  • 75 percent of library card holders used their library cards in 2008. (Source)
  • Americans check out more than 2 billion items each year from their public libraries; the average user takes out more than seven books a year
  • Patrons also go to their libraries to learn new computer skills, conduct job searches and participate in the activities of local community organizations
  • Average cost to the taxpayer for these services is $31 a year
    Source for last three: 2008 State of America’s Libraries report)
  • There are more public libraries than McDonald’s in the US - a total of 16,541 including branches
  • Americans spend more than twice as much on candy as they do on public libraries. [Source (PDF)]
  • Americans check out an average of more than seven books a year. They spend $33.56 a year for the public library – about the average cost of one hardcover book. [Source (PDF)]
  • Public libraries are the number one point of online access for people without internet connections at home, school, or work. [Source (PDF)]
  • 98.7% of public libraries provide public access to the internet. [Source (PDF)]

Libraries are essential to economic recovery.

Libraries provide valuable materials, programs, and services to get people back on their feet and skilled staff to help them find what they need. (information from the Wisconsin Library Association)

  • Resources to learn about resume writing, and how to complete job application forms
  • Resources to learn financial management
  • Resources to help create small businesses
  • Resources to learn about health, nutrition and wellness activities
  • Online databases that provide valuable information for businesses
  • Computers and Internet access for applying for jobs online, virtual classes and training, distance education, personal research
  • Computer training on email, searching, work processing, spreadsheets, PowerPoint and more software programs
  • Free email access to apply and receive correspondence about jobs
  • Assistance in setting up free email accounts
  • Resume writing software and assistance
  • Referrals to agencies that provide loans, food, shelter and other essentials
  • Meeting places for businesses, organizations, tutors and students, and language learners
  • Staff to proctor exams for correspondence classes, virtual universities, and job qualification tests
  • Practice tests, both print and online

Libraries have developed a model for collaboration.

For years, libraries have set the standard for working together, sharing resources, and creating efficiencies – always with an eye to enhancing customer service. The examples are numerous:

  • Shared library catalogs
  • Interlibrary loan: libraries borrow and share items from all over the United States
  • Cooperative access to subscription-based online databases
  • Access to materials in digital formats
  • Long-range planning (e.g., Council of Libraries and Network Development report on future of Wisconsin libraries)