8,956: Number of public libraries in the U.S. in FY2011


The Institute of Museum and Library Services recently released a preview of its Fiscal Year 2011 Public Libraries in the United States Survey, a compilation of responses of 98% of public libraries in the country. (Here in Colorado, our Public Library Annual Report—which just wrapped up data collection for 2013—contributes data to the IMLS survey). The full report is forthcoming, but here are a few of our favorite stats:

  • 95% of the U.S. population is served by nearly 9,000 public libraries.
  • Libraries saw 1.53 billion visits – that’s more than 4.2 million visits per day! (And it’s important to note that that doesn’t include virtual visits.)
  • 2.44 billion materials circulated, or just over 8 items per person.
  • What’s going up: public library program attendance (for the 8th year in a row), number of programs, number of collection materials, number of public access Internet computers.
  • What’s going down: number of FTE staff, in-person visits, number of usage sessions of public access Internet computers. It’s important to note that in the national survey, wireless access uses are not counted, although some states, including Colorado, collect this information. In Colorado, the number of wireless access uses reported increased by 62% from 2011 to 2012.
  • At the same time, the overall number of public librarians has been pretty stable for the past 10 years, hovering around an average 4.0 librarians per 25,000 people.

We’ll be watching for the full report release here. In the meantime, check out IMLS’s state-by-state profiles, and you can find Colorado’s here. Of course you can always access the most recent results from Colorado’s Public Library Annual Report through our interactive tool right here at LRS.org! We just posted the 2013 preliminary data file.

 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.


  • Public Library Statistics & Profiles
    Dive into annual statistics from the Colorado Public Library Annual Report using our interactive tool, results tailored to trustees, and state totals and averages.
  • School Library Impact Studies
    School libraries have a profound impact on student achievement. Explore studies about this topic by LRS and other researchers in our comprehensive guide.
  • Fast Fact Reports
    Looking for a quick rundown of library research? Check out our Fast Facts, which highlight research and statistics about various library topics.


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LRS is part of the Colorado State Library, a unit of the Colorado Department of Education. We design and conduct library research for library and education professionals, public officials, and the media to inform practices and assessment needs.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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