Majority of Americans – and 7 in 10 Cardholders – Happy with their Local Library

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The FINANCIAL — As next week marks “National Friends of Libraries” week (October 18-24), it’s particularly good news that over half (55%) of Americans are extremely or very satisfied with their local library. Satisfaction is especially high (as one might hope) among those with a library card (70%), but that’s not to say Americans don’t have any recommendations to improve library services.

While reading a book used to mean turning a page, for many it now means swiping a screen, and a vast majority of Americans (81%) say libraries need to offer digital content to stay relevant. This belief is particularly strong among Baby Boomers and Gen Xers (86% & 83% vs. 75% Millennials & 77% Matures).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,212 U.S. adults surveyed online between August 12 – 17, 2015.

Going digital

Libraries are responding with a variety of digital offerings, but just how many Americans are making use of them? Over two thirds of Americans (68%) believe all of a library’s content should be available online to borrow digitally. When library cardholders are asked about the products their libraries offer, majorities say they can borrow digital audio books (66%; with 18% using/borrowing) and eBooks (63%; with 23% using/borrowing). Fewer say they can borrow magazines (42%; with 9% using/borrowing), music (37%; with 10% using/borrowing) and movies/shows (36%; with 10% using/borrowing) digitally.

Men are more than twice as likely as women to have used or borrowed digital movies/shows (14% vs. 7%), music (14% vs. 6%), and magazines (13% vs. 5%) from their local library.

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Those with children in the household are more likely than those without to have borrowed each type of digital product tested.

Meanwhile, large percentages of cardholders (ranging from 29% for digital audio books to 53% for both digital music and movies/shows) indicate they’re not sure if their library offers each of these items digitally, while few explicitly state their library is lacking each (ranging from 5% for digital audio books to 10% for both digital music and movies/shows).

Desires of the digitally deprived

Digitally deprived cardholders (those who say their library doesn’t offer the aforementioned digital products) are most interested in their library offering digital or streaming movies/show (43%) and eBooks (39%), followed by digital magazines (33%), streaming music (30%), and audio books (30%).

Millennials and Gen Xers without current access are more likely than both Baby Boomers and Matures to show interest in digital or streaming movies/shows (59% & 50% vs. 32% & 15%) and music (46% & 36% vs. 19% & 9%).

Among those saying their libraries lack these digital offerings, those with children under 18 at home are more interested in each digital product compared to those without:

Digital or streaming movies/shows: 58% vs. 36%

eBooks: 48% vs. 35%

Digital magazines: 42% vs. 29%

Digital or streaming music: 43% vs. 24%

Digital audio books: 42% vs. 25%

Library usage

Over six in ten (63%) Americans say they have a library card (consistent with 2014’s 64%), and these cardholders do tend to have some key demographic attributes:

Women are more likely than men are to have a library card (67% vs. 58%).

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Library cards more prevalent among those who have completed higher levels of education (77% post grad, 68% college grad, 63% some college & 56% H.S. or less).

Perhaps not surprisingly, those in households with children are more likely to have a card compared to adults in childless households (68% vs. 60%).

Eight in ten cardholders have visited the library or used its services at least once in the past year (81%, up marginally from 78% in 2014). When asked the top reasons – from a provided list – for using the library over the past year, borrowing books (54%) is at the top of the list, followed distantly by borrowing DVDs/videos (22%). Just over one in ten indicate they’ve gone in order to connect to the Internet with a library computer (12%).

But clearly libraries are about a lot more that what people can get from them: a vast majority of Americans (89%) agree that no matter how much content is available digitally, local libraries will always be an important community resource.


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