The following is a text-only press release from the federal Institute of
Museum and Library Services (IMLS). An HTML version of this release with
graphics can be read on the agency's Web site at

June 30, 2010

Press Contacts
Jeannine Mjoseth, [log in to unmask]
Mamie Bittner, [log in to unmask] 

Public Library Visits, Circulation Spike While Staff Numbers Stay the
IMLS FY2008 Public Libraries Survey Report

Washington, DC-Public library visits and circulations per capita
increased almost 20 percent between FY1999 and FY2008, while the number
of public librarians per 25,000 people has remained virtually the same
during that same period, according to the FY2008 Public Libraries Survey
(PLS) report issued by the Institute of Museum and Library Services
(IMLS). The PLS report, which includes information on population of
service areas, service outlets, library collections and services,
library staff, and operating revenue and expenditures, also found that
Americans made 1.5 billion visits to public libraries in FY2008, up from
1.43 billion total visits the previous year.

More than 9,200 libraries were surveyed in the 50 states, the District
of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the
Virgin Islands. The survey had an impressive 98 percent response rate
due to the cooperative efforts of the chief officers of State Library
Agencies, IMLS, and the Census Bureau.

"This year, the FY2008 Public Library Survey incorporates a new set of
geographic identifiers called locale codes, which will help researchers
and practitioners organize library data according to the community
served, whether it's a remote rural area or a densely-populated center
city neighborhood," said IMLS Acting Director Marsha L. Semmel. "Locale
codes will be a useful new tool for examining the diverse ways that
public library services impact local communities."

The report includes a number of key findings that will assist the
library community and local, state, and national policymakers in making
decisions to better their communities. 

* Library visitation per capita has steadily increased over the past 10
years. In FY2008, the average individual in a library service area
visited the library just over 5 times (5.1), compared to 4.3 visits per
person in 1999, an increase of 19.7 percent. Overall, there were 1.50
billion public library visits in FY2008, up from 1.43 billion total
visits the previous year (Figure 1). 

* The availability of Internet terminals has nearly doubled over the
past 10 years in response to patron demand; Internet PCs per 5,000
people rose from 1.9 in FY1999 to 3.7 in FY2008. Internet PC uses per
capita have remained at the same basic level since FY2006. There were
1.16 Internet uses per person in FY2006, 1.22 Internet uses per person
in FY2007 and 1.21 Internet uses per person in FY2008.

* Circulation per capita has also generally increased during the past 10
years, increasing by 19.7 percent since FY1999, when per person
circulation stood at 6.5. The nation's libraries recorded 7.7
circulations per capita in FY2008, up from 7.4 the previous year. 

* Children's program attendance at public libraries gradually rose
during the study period, increasing from 181.7 children's program
attendances per 1,000 people in FY1999 to 206.8 program attendances per
1,000 people in FY2008, an increase of 13.9 percent. Overall program
attendance is on the rise as well, increasing 17.6 percent from FY2004
to FY2008.

* The number of public librarians per 25,000 people has remained more or
less the same over the past 10 years, hovering around 4.0 (Figure 12).
There were 4.0 librarians per 25,000 people in FY1999 and 4.1 in FY2008
(Figure 2).

* This year's report includes a graphic showing the distribution of
library outlets by state and geography type. A large number of the
library outlets in the country are located in rural areas. In a sizable
portion of the states (16 of the 50) more than 50 percent of their
outlets are located in rural areas. 

The FY2008 survey is the 21st in the series. On October 1, 2007,
responsibility for the PLS was transferred to IMLS from the National
Center for Education Statistics (NCES), along with the State Library
Agencies survey. The U.S. Census Bureau collects the data under a
contract with IMLS.

For more information on library statistics, visit
The report is available in PDF format. 
The FY2008 PLS data files and documentation were released on May 21,

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services 
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of
federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.
The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that
connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the
national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to
sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and
innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about
the Institute, please visit