Pew: Libraries Offer More Digital Resources, But Fewer Americans Visit

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Have you visited your local library? According to a new Pew survey, 44 percent of Americans made the trip in the past 12 months—down from 53 percent when Pew first asked this question in 2012.

Based on a survey of 2,752 U.S. adults, conducted between October and November 2015, the report finds that the most Americans—76 percent—“believe local libraries serve the educational needs of their communities and families.” Of those who have paid a visit, 97 percent identified themselves as “lifelong learners.” Library-goers also tend to be women, young adults, parents and have gone to college.

As Pew surveys often also reveal, there are discrepancies in how access differs by demographics. Hispanic respondents were less likely to have gone to a library, as were people from very low-income (under $30,000) and high-income (more than $150,000) households.

Libraries are no longer bookstacks; increasingly, they offer a range of digital resources from e-books to online classes. The Pew survey compared data from the Information Policy and Access Center (IPAC) at the University Maryland on the availability of these programs, and whether Pew survey respondents were aware of them.

  % of libraries offering these services, according to IPAC % of Pew respondents who do not know if these are available % of Pew respondents who say these are not available
E-book borrowing 90 22 16
Online career and job-related resources 62 38 21
Online GED or high school equivalency classes 35 47 27
Programs on starting a new business 33 47 28
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