Public libraries serve 96% of the U.S. population, or approximately 297.6 million people

Image credit: Justin Grimes

“There’s always that joke that there’s a Starbucks on every corner,” says Justin Grimes, a statistician with the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington. “But when you really think about it, there’s a public library wherever you go, whether it’s in New York City or some place in rural Montana. Very few communities are not touched by a public library.” To prove this point, Grimes created a map indicating public library locations nationally. There are approximately 17,000 public library outlets, including library branches and bookmobiles, across the U.S., outnumbering McDonald’s locations (14,000) and Starbucks (11,000). According to IMLS, libraries reach 96% of the U.S. population, a number drawn from the 297.6 million people served by a public library.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The Weekly Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st century library.

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