Archive for the Public Category

Text reference increased by as much as 375% in U.S. public libraries from 2010 to 2012


Image credit: Free Library of Philadelphia

Earlier this week, we released a report, U.S. Public Libraries and the Use of Web Technologies, 2012, that presents the findings of our longitudinal study of nearly 600 U.S. public libraries’ use of web technologies and social media. One element that we examined was virtual reference–email, chat, and text. Our findings showed that in 2008, 2010, and 2012, email was the most popular form of virtual reference. In 2012, well over half of libraries serving populations of at least 100,000 provided email reference services, as did nearly half of libraries serving 25,000-99,999. However, it appears that email reference is waning a bit in popularity, as libraries serving 100,000+ as well as the smallest libraries (serving less than 10,000) showed decreases from 2010.

Chat reference was still offered by many public libraries but it has also declined from 2010 to 2012, with substantial drops at the larger libraries: libraries serving 500,000+ dropped from 71% to 57% and those serving 100,000-499,999 fell from 49% to 38%.

In contrast, text reference has seen extensive growth in libraries. Just 13% of the largest libraries (serving 500,000+) offered text reference in 2010; in 2012, more than 3 times as many (43%) did. About 1 in 5 libraries (19%) serving 100,000-499,999 offered text reference services in 2012 compared to just 4% in 2010. And, more than twice as many libraries serving 25,000-99,999 offered text reference in 2012 than 2010 (9% vs. 4%), as did more than 3 times as many libraries serving 10,000-24,999 (7% vs. 2%) . None of the smallest libraries offered text reference in 2010, whereas 2% did so in 2012.

Check out the following resources for more information about this study:

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.

U.S. Public Libraries and the Use of Web Technologies, 2012

U.S. Public Libraries and the Use of Web Technologies, 2012


Our new report, U.S. Public Libraries and the Use of Web Technologies, 2012, presents the findings of the third iteration of our biennial study, launched in 2008, that documents the use of various web technologies (social networking, virtual reference,  blogs, etc.) on the websites of nearly 600 public libraries throughout the nation. Our results showed that U.S. public libraries made big gains in the following areas from 2010 to 2012:

  • Social networking: More than half of all libraries were on Facebook. For libraries serving populations of 25,000-499,999, this number jumped to 4 in 5, and to more than 9 in 10 for the largest libraries (serving 500,000+). The smallest libraries (serving less than 10,000) showed the biggest increase in adoption of this social network from 2010 to 2012: 18% to 54%.
  • Mobile access: In 2010 we detected the presence of any type of mobile-friendly website access in only 12 percent of the largest public libraries, 3 percent of libraries serving 100,000-499,999, and no libraries serving less than 100,000. In 2012, three-fourths of the largest libraries offered mobile-friendly access, followed by about 3 in 5 libraries serving 25,000-499,999, one-third of libraries serving 10,000-24,000, and 17% of the smallest libraries.
  • Text reference: From 2010 to 2012, text reference increased by 231% in the largest libraries, 375% in libraries serving 100,000-499,999, 125% in libraries serving 25,000-99,999, and 250% in libraries serving 10,000-24,999.

Check out the following resources to learn more:

Top 4 portable electronics loaned by libraries


Image Credit: Hooksett Library

In 2011, Time Magazine featured an online article that enthusiastically proclaimed loaner iPads as one of the “best freebies” ever offered by public libraries. Today, public libraries across the country continue to loan tablet and e-reader devices, as well as other portable electronics, like laptops, GPS units, and MP3 players. At the Hooksett Public Library in New Hampshire, for example, patrons aged 18 and older need only present their library card and a valid driver’s license to borrow an e-reader for two weeks. Closer to home, Jefferson County Public Library loans “JCPL 2 Go” devices, which are wireless tablets that contain eBooks and other digital information. This service was recently covered by 7 News, the ABC affiliate in Denver. And, patrons of all ages may check out laptops at the San Francisco Public Library, though they may not take them from the premises.  Here are some examples of libraries that lend portable electronics:

1. Laptops:

2. E-readers and tablets:

3. GPS units:

4. MP3 players:

Does your library loan any of these items or other types of portable electronics? Let us know by leaving a comment on our Twitter account.

Note: This post is part of our “Beyond Books” series. From time to time, we’ll be sharing examples of unique lending programs, events, and outreach that libraries are offering.

40% of library computer users use computers for employment purposes

40% of library computer users use computers for employment purposes


In 2010, researchers from the University of Washington released the study “Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries.” This study was a national effort that consisted of a random telephone survey, online surveys of library users, interviews, and focus groups to determine who library internet computer users were, why they were using the computers, and how this service benefited their lives.

The results showed that library internet computer users’ three most common reasons for using the computers were social connections (60%), education (42%), and employment (40%).  This study also found that library computer use was most common among people in poverty, people of mixed race and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders, 14-18 year olds, men, and people who speak languages other than English at home.

The survey used in this study was the Impact Survey, which is now freely available to U.S. public libraries. If you are interested in learning more about the demographics of your computer users and their reasons for using the library computers, this might be a good option for you. After administering the survey to your patrons, you will receive customized reports that can be used for planning, marketing, and advocacy purposes. Check out the Impact Survey website for more information about how your library can participate in this study.

Looking for other resources for library user surveys? Check out our user satisfaction survey templates. These consist of 3 survey templates that you can download and modify for use in your library, as well as tips and best practices for survey design and administration.

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.

31% of adult internet users upload or post videos online

Pew_Video Popularity

Image Credit: Pew Internet


Videos are becoming more and more popular sources of entertainment, education, and learning. Not only are many people watching videos online—nearly 4 out of 5 (78%) of online adults do—but 31 percent of them are also posting or uploading videos to the internet, according to a new Pew Internet report complete with its own video summary. Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) online adults have posted videos they themselves have taken or created. Many are posting and watching video through social networking sites which make it even easier to share content online. The most popular genres to watch are comedy/humor (57% of online adults), how-to (56%), educational (50%), and music (50%). Of online adults who post their own videos online, family, friends, and events are most often the subjects.

So where can all this digital content be created? One resource is at Denver Public Library, where teens are getting into the maker movement using the Community Technology Center’s ideaLAB to create original videos, record music, and learn software. The digital media creation space was funded in part by a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant. Their projects are based on core STEM principles and 21st century skills and developed through creative making, tinkering, and playing. And ideaLAB is wildly popular: the space has seen more than 600 visits and more than 200 projects created. In fact, the lab is so popular, DPL has launched an indiegogo campaign to help expand and support the creative space and makers.

Interested in all things maker? Check out the Colorado State Library’s resources at And don’t miss the “train the trainer” tools, digital creation software tips, and lesson plans, and more on CSL’s Library Creation & Learning Centers site,

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.

America’s Star Libraries, 2013


Image Credit: Library Journal


Library Journal has just released its 2013 Index of Public Library Service and Star Library ratings. This index is a rating system for public libraries nationwide, and libraries earn a star by being in the top 30 of their expenditure peer group (top 15 for the highest expenditure group) on an index score based on four per capita service output statistics: library visits, circulation, program attendance, and public Internet computer use.

Congratulations to the following Colorado libraries that were named star libraries this year:

  • Arapahoe Library District
  • Denver Public Library
  • Douglas County Libraries
  • La Veta Regional Library District
  • Limon Memorial Library
  • Mancos Public Library District
  • Ridgway Library District
  • Swink School/Public Library
  • San Miguel Library District #1/Telluride

Interested in seeing more data and information about Colorado libraries? Be sure to check out our interactive public library statistics tool.

21% of Americans without health insurance do not use the internet

21% of Americans without health insurance do not use the internet


Image Credit: Pew Research Center

On October 1, 2013, open enrollment began under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and approximately 2.8 million Americans visited to compare and apply for health coverage. For many, the online portal is the easiest and quickest way to accomplish these tasks and find related resources. Unfortunately, this option is not a viable one for the 15 percent of American adults who don’t use the internet for various reasons, as discussed in one of our recent Weekly Number posts. Furthermore, the Pew Research Center recently found that about 1 in 5 (21%) uninsured Americans don’t use the internet.

Forever devoted to the principle of equitable access, libraries are integral in ensuring that these offline parties are not denied the opportunity to obtain affordable health coverage. Those who do not use the internet due to lack of access will find it offered for free at the library, and those experiencing difficulty in navigating the internet might benefit from library programs aimed at teaching basic technology skills. Additionally, libraries across the country have taken special efforts to disseminate information about the ACA, and help interested parties obtain coverage. In Colorado, for example, interested parties can find a list of library presentations on the ACA throughout the state—and elsewhere—via the Connect for Health Colorado portal, or via individual libraries’ websites (e.g., the Denver Public Library’s “Affordable Care Act” page). At other libraries, such as the Waukegan Public Library in Illinois, patrons can “drop in” for bilingual group or one-on-one sessions with library staff to determine their eligibility for certain plans, compare prices, and apply for coverage. The passage of the ACA has afforded libraries another opportunity to demonstrate that they are receptive and responsive toward community needs, and they are surely up to the task.

Additional resources:

 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.

More than 3 out of 4 public libraries in the U.S. serve communities of less than 25,000 people

More than 3 out of 4 public libraries in the U.S. serve communities of less than 25,000 people

small_librariesImage credit: IMLS

What’s not surprising: rural and small libraries provide critical resources and serve as community anchors to populations of less than 25,000 and non-urban areas. What is surprising? That small and rural libraries make up more than 80 percent of U.S. libraries as of Fiscal Year 2011, according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) brief, “The State of Small and Rural Libraries in the United States.” Across the country, more than 3 out of 4 public libraries serve communities of less than 25,000 people, and nearly half of all U.S. public libraries are in rural areas. The breakdown of “small” and “rural” in Colorado’s 114 public libraries follows fairly closely to national numbers: 54 percent of public libraries are rural while 76 percent are small, according to the IMLS data. (It is important to note that while most rural libraries are also small, not all small libraries are also rural. Get more details about these differences, as well as the breakdown of subcategories within these identifiers, in the full IMLS briefing.)

As might be expected, rural areas have more difficulty obtaining broadband access than their urban counterparts. However, rural libraries are working to ease this divide by increasing the number of public access computers (see the Colorado State Library’s BTOP project for an example of this), up more than 20 percent across 3 years (FY2009-FY2011). Across the same time period, small libraries have had a similar increase in the number of public access computers (18%). Interestingly, libraries serving communities of less than 25,000 provide 21.1 million e-books to their users, or 60 percent of all e-book holdings in the U.S.

And it’s not just technology: both rural and small libraries have seen increases in overall circulation and visitation from FY2009 to FY2011. In fact, visits per capita are higher at rural and small libraries—7.6 visits per year and 5.5 visits per year—than at their more urban and larger (serving 25,000+) counterparts at 5.7 visits per year and 4.5 visits per year, respectively.

Interested in showing how your small or rural library is making an impact? View your library’s annual statistics through our interactive tool, as well as state totals, averages, and ratios. And don’t forget other sources of public library data, such as the Public Library Funding and Technology Access study and the Public Library Data Service study, that also provide useful information.

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.

15% of American adults don’t use the internet

pew_nonImage credit: Pew Internet

Despite the fact that an increasing number of job applications and other important resources are being offered solely online, not everyone in the U.S. uses the internet. This simple fact has been emphasized countless times in years past, through discussion of the “Digital Divide.” Most recently, in the report Who’s Not Online and Why, Pew Internet indicated that, as of May 2013, 15% of American adults don’t use the internet.

Why not? About one-third (34%) of non-users just don’t believe the internet has any relevance to their lives. These non-users are not interested in using the internet, and some think using the internet is a waste of time. Another one-third of non-users (32%) cite usability issues as reasons for not using the internet. Some of these non-users deem using the internet as too difficult or frustrating, while others claim they are “too old” or physically unable to use the internet. About one-fifth (19%) do not use the internet because of the expense it entails, and 7 percent cite a lack of access to the internet.

Pew’s report provides libraries with a better understanding of non-users and how to serve them. Some non-users might never develop an appreciation for the internet—no matter the efforts of others to demonstrate its utility—and will continue to rely on libraries to provide information in non-digital formats. Other non-users, however, might simply need more incentive to use the internet, and libraries can seize this opportunity to demonstrate why it is beneficial and, in many cases, a necessity. For the non-users who simply do not have access to the internet, or do not know how to use it, libraries can, of course, serve as an important resource, providing free high-speed access and technology-oriented classes. For a great example of this, see LRS’s Fast Facts series on the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP), and its positive effects in Colorado:

Libraries: What attempts have you made to reach non-users to market your technology resources and classes? Have they been successful?

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.

72% of online adults use social networking sites

72% of online adults use social networking sites

Pew_Adult Social Media Use

You suspected it, but here’s the proof: nearly three-quarters of online adults use social media, according to a May 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center. And more and more older adults are using them, too: adoption rates have jumped to 43 percent among those 65 and older.

So what does this mean for libraries? Meet your users where they are – in this case, on social networking sites. Preliminary data from an LRS study of public library websites and social media use suggest that libraries are getting there: almost 3 in 4 public libraries from our national sample were on Facebook and 2 in 5 were on Twitter. Stay tuned to for final results from our biennial study. In the meantime, take a look at what we found in 2008 and 2010 on our page devoted to this study:

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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