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

NEW YORK, N.Y. – 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.
  • 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%).
  • 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.

 

TABLE 1

LIBRARY CARD HOLDERS – TREND

By Gender & Education

“Do you have a library card?”

Base:  U.S. adults

 

Total 2008

Total 2014

Total 2015

Gender

Education

Children in HH

Male

Female

High School or Less

Some College

College Grad

Post Grad

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Yes

68

64

63

58

67

56

63

68

77

68

60

No

N/A

36

37

42

33

44

37

32

23

32

40

 

 

TABLE 2

USE OF PUBLIC LIBRARY – TREND

 “About how many times during the past year have you visited or used the public library or public library services?  If you are not sure, please provide your best estimate and think about all the ways you can use the library and/or their services.”

Base:  U.S. adults that have library cards

 

2014 Total

2015 Total

%

%

ANY (Net)

78

81

1-5 times

28

31

6-10 times

15

15

11-25 times

17

17

26+ times

18

17

Have not used in past year

21

18

Not sure

1

2

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 


TABLE 3a

LIBRARY DIGITAL OFFERINGS

 “To the best of your knowledge, please select which of the following describes your library’s offerings of the following digital services/products.”

Base:  U.S. adults that have library cards

LIRBARY OFFERS (NET)

My library offers this and I have used/ borrowed it

My library offers this and I have not used/ borrowed it

My library does not offer this

I don’t know if my library offers this

Digital audio books

%

66

18

47

5

29

eBooks (electronic books)

%

63

23

41

5

32

Digital magazines

%

42

9

34

8

49

Digital or streaming music

%

37

10

28

10

53

Digital or streaming movies/shows

%

36

10

26

10

53

 

TABLE 3b

LIBRARY DIGITAL OFFERINGS

Summary of “My library offers this and I have used/ borrowed it” by Generation & Gender

 “To the best of your knowledge, please select which of the following describes your library’s offerings of the following digital services/products.”

Base:  U.S. adults that have library cards

 

Total

Generation

Children in HH

Gender

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Yes

No

Male

Female

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

eBooks (electronic books)

23

27

21

21

18

30

18

25

20

Digital audio books

18

19

20

17

15

23

16

21

16

Digital or streaming movies/shows

10

14

11

6

8

14

8

14

7

Digital or streaming music

10

16

10

5

1

14

7

14

6

Digital magazines

9

13

8

5

8

14

5

13

5

 


TABLE 4

TOP USES FOR PUBLIC LIBRARY

By Generation & Gender

“Thinking back over the last year, which three of the following were the top things you used the library for?”  Base:  U.S. adults that have library cards

 

2014 Total

2015 Total

Generation

Gender

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Male

Female

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

ANY (NET)

86

85

89

89

81

77

85

85

Borrow books, either hardcover or paperbacks

56

54

53

57

55

43

45

61

Borrow DVDs/videos

24

22

22

30

18

14

25

20

Connect to the Internet on one of the library’s computers

11

12

17

13

10

5

15

10

BORROW DIGITAL CONTENT (NET)

15

11

9

12

12

14

12

11

Borrow eBooks

13

8

7

11

7

9

8

9

Borrow digital audio books

4

4

2

5

5

6

4

4

Consult the librarian

8

9

11

7

10

7

9

9

Check email

9

9

9

12

8

5

12

7

Use reference materials, like the encyclopedia

9

9

13

5

8

9

9

9

Read newspapers or magazines

9

9

7

11

7

15

11

7

Use a computer to write a paper or prepare a resume

6

7

14

7

3

2

8

7

Borrow books on tape/CD

6

7

6

7

8

7

9

6

Attend a kids’ reading or storytime program

6

7

12

7

4

2

3

10

Connect to the Internet on my own computer or mobile device

7

7

11

4

5

3

8

5

Hear a speaker or attend a special program

6

6

5

6

9

7

7

6

Borrow CDs/Music

9

5

4

6

7

5

5

Take a class or workshop

5

3

4

2

4

2

4

3

See a movie or listen to a concert/performance

3

2

2

2

1

2

2

2

Borrow video games for a gaming platform

2

1

2

1

*

1

1

Borrow software and/or games for a computer

2

1

2

1

*

1

1

Other

8

8

8

6

7

12

8

7

None of these

14

15

11

11

19

23

15

15

Note: Multiple responses allowed


TABLE 5a

INTEREST IN DIGITAL OFFERINGS

 “How interested are you in being able to access each of the following digital products/services if your library did offer them?”

Base:  Library does not offer digital product (variable bases)

INTERESTED (NET)

Extremely interested

Somewhat interested

NOT INTERESTED (NET)

Not very interested

Not at all interested

Digital or streaming movies/shows

%

43

14

29

57

21

36

eBooks (electronic books)

%

39

11

27

61

20

41

Digital magazines

%

33

8

25

67

26

42

Digital or streaming music

%

30

8

22

70

25

45

Digital audio books

%

30

8

22

70

24

46

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

 

TABLE 5b

INTEREST IN DIGITAL OFFERINGS

Summary of “Interested” (NET) by Generation & Children in HH

 “How interested are you in being able to access each of the following digital products/services if your library did offer them?”

Base:  U.S. adults that have library cards

 

Total

Generation

Children in HH

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Digital or streaming movies/shows

43

59

50

32

15

58

36

eBooks (electronic books)

39

47

41

34

21

48

35

Digital magazines

33

40

36

30

16

42

29

Digital or streaming music

30

46

36

19

9

43

24

Digital audio books

30

44

30

19

16

42

25

 


TABLE 6

SATISFACTION WITH LIBRARY

Trend Grid

“Overall, thinking of your public library, based on what you know or have heard or read, how satisfied are you with your public library?”

Base: All adults

Total 2008

Total 2014

Total 2015

Have Library Card

Children in HH

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

EXTREMELY/VERY SATISFIED (NET)

59

66

55

70

28

56

54

Extremely Satisfied

20

24

22

30

8

23

21

Very Satisfied

39

42

33

40

20

33

33

Somewhat Satisfied

22

20

20

20

21

22

20

A LITTLE/NOT AT ALL SATISFIED (NET)

6

5

6

5

8

8

5

Only A Little Satisfied

4

3

3

3

3

5

2

Not At All Satisfied

2

2

3

1

5

3

3

Not Sure

13

9

19

5

43

14

21

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 7a

OPINIONS ON LIBRARIES

 “How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?”

Base:  U.S. Adults

AGREE (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

DISAGREE (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

No matter how much content is available digitally, local libraries will always be an important community resource.

%

89

51

38

11

9

2

Libraries need to offer digital content to stay relevant.

%

81

29

52

19

14

5

All of a library’s content should be available online to borrow digitally.

%

68

19

49

32

23

9

Local libraries are becoming obsolete.

%

46

9

37

54

29

25

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 7b

OPINIONS ON LIBRARIES

Summary of “Agree (NET)” by Generation & Library Card Status

 “How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?”

Base:  U.S. Adults

 

Total

Generation

Have Library Card

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

No matter how much content is available digitally, local libraries will always be an important community resource.

89

88

88

92

89

92

84

Libraries need to offer digital content to stay relevant.

81

75

83

86

77

80

83

All of a library’s content should be available online to borrow digitally.

68

69

70

68

63

66

72

Local libraries are becoming obsolete.

46

52

51

39

39

37

61

 

 

TABLE 8

READERSHIP – HARD COPY VS. ELECTRONICALLY

By Generation & Gender 

“Currently, how many books would you say you read in hard copy form (e.g., hardcover, paperback) versus electronically (e.g., on a smartphone, tablet, e-reader)?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Male

Female

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

More hard copy (NET)

68

62

63

73

80

66

70

I only read hard copy books

47

34

45

53

69

45

48

I read more hard copy books than “e-books”

21

29

18

20

10

20

22

I read about the same number of hard copy and “e-books”

15

17

18

11

8

15

14

More eBooks (NET)

18

21

18

16

12

19

16

I read more “e-books” than hard copy books

13

17

14

12

7

15

12

I only read “e-books”

4

4

4

4

5

4

5

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between August 12 and 17, 2015 among 2,212 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #64, October 15, 2015

By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll