Satisfaction with Public Libraries Has Increased Since 2008

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – September 24, 2014 – September is Library Card Sign-Up Month, and the Harris Poll finds that 66% of American adults are either extremely (24%) or very (42%) satisfied with their public library. This number represents a seven percentage-point increase from the 59% of Americans who indicated the same in 2008. An additional two in ten (20%) are somewhat satisfied.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll¨ of 2,306 U.S. adults surveyed online between July 16 and 21, 2014.

    Unsurprisingly, those who have their own library cards are much more likely to feel extremely or very satisfied with their public library than those who do not have library cards (78% vs. 44%). Parental status also appears to be a factor when determining satisfaction. Parents are more likely than adults without children to be extremely/very satisfied with their public libraries (71% parents of children 18+ and 69% parents of children <18 vs. 62% non-parents).

    Library Card Carriers

    The next big question for Library Card Sign-Up Month is, of course, Do you have a library card? A majority of Americans (64%) have confirmed that they have a library card, down from 68% of adults in 2008. Looking across demographics:

    • When it comes to the great gender divide, women are more likely than men to have a library card (71% vs. 57%).
    • Higher levels of education coincide with higher likelihood to have a library card. Adults who have completed a postgraduate degree are the most likely to have a library card (79%), followed by a near-tie between college graduates (67%) and those who have completed some college (66%). Americans who have a high school education or less are the least likely to have a library card (58%).
    • Parental status also coincides with differences in likelihood to have a library card. Parents are more likely to own library cards than adults without kids (70% of those with children <18 and 68% of those with children 18+ vs. 60% of those without children).

    Cards for kids

    Speaking of library cards, when asked how important it is that a child have one of his or her own, 89% of U.S. adults believe it is important, with 56% finding it to be very important.

    • Once again, gender differences hold strong. Women are more likely than men to consider it very important that a child have their own library card (61% vs. 49%).
    • When it comes to education levels, postgraduates are the most likely to feel it is very important for children to have their own library cards (71%, vs. 51% college graduates, 62% some college and 49% HS or less).
    • It is perhaps unsurprising that those who have library cards themselves are more likely to feel it is very important for children to have their own library cards (68%) than those who do not have library cards (33%).

    How often do cardholders use the library?

    Nearly eight out of ten adults with library cards (78%) have used the library in the past year, while more than two in ten (21%) have not. More specifically, 28% have done so 1-5 times, 15% 6-10 times, 17% 11-25 times, and 18% have used the library 26 times or more.

    Parents of children under 18 are the most likely to have used the library six or more times in the last year (61%, vs. 43% parents of children 18+ and 49% adults with no children).

    Why do cardholders use the library?

    When shown a list of possible library activities and asked which were the top reasons they had used their library over the last year, the majority of Americans list borrowing hardcover or paperback books (56%), followed by DVDs/videos (24%) and digital content (15%, with 13% specifying borrowing eBooks).

    • Breaking it down by gender, it appears that women are more likely than men to use the library for borrowing eBooks (15% vs. 9%) and attending a kids’ reading or storytime program (7% vs. 4%). However, women are less likely to use the library to borrow CDs/Music (7% of women vs. 12% of men), use reference materials (7% vs. 12%), and check email (5% vs. 14%), among other things.

    What is a library?

    Nine in ten Americans (89%) feel it is important that a library be a valuable education resource, with the majority of adults specifying they feel this is very important (59%). Meanwhile, just over three-fourths of adults consider it existing as a pillar of the community to be important (77%). In addition, roughly seven in ten Americans agree that it is important for the library to be recognized as a community center (73%), a cultural center (70%), and a family destination (68%). Finally, 65% of American adults believe it is important that a library should exist as an entertainment resource.

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    TABLE 1

    LIBRARY CARD HOLDERS

    Summary of Yes Responses by Gender & Education

    Do you have a library card?

    Base: U.S. adults

    Total 2008

    Total 2014

    Gender

    Education

    Parental Status

    Male

    Female

    High School or Less

    Some College

    College Grad

    Post Grad

    Children <18

    Children 18+

    No Children

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    68

    64

    57

    71

    58

    66

    67

    79

    70

    68

    60

    No

    N/A

    36

    43

    29

    42

    34

    33

    21

    30

    32

    40

     

    TABLE 2

    USE OF PUBLIC LIBRARY

    By Parental Status

    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

    Total

    Parental Status

    Children <18

    Children 18+

    No Children

    %

    %

    %

    %

    ANY (Net)

    78

    87

    73

    77

    1-5 times

    28

    26

    30

    28

    6-10 times

    15

    21

    12

    14

    11-25 times

    17

    23

    15

    16

    26+ times

    18

    16

    17

    19

    Have not used in past year

    21

    12

    25

    22

    Not sure

    1

    1

    1

    2

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


     

    TABLE 3

    TOP USES FOR PUBLIC LIBRARY

    By Gender, Metro Status, & Parental Status

    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

    Total

    Gender

    Metro Status

    Parental Status

    Male

    Female

    Urban

    Suburban

    Rural

    Children <18

    Children 18+

    No Children

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    ANY (NET)

    86

    89

    85

    89

    86

    85

    93

    80

    87

    Borrow books, either hardcover or paperbacks

    56

    53

    58

    46

    59

    60

    52

    53

    57

    Borrow DVDs/videos

    24

    25

    23

    19

    28

    21

    23

    18

    28

    BORROW DIGITAL CONTENT (NET)

    15

    12

    18

    19

    16

    9

    15

    18

    14

    Borrow eBooks

    13

    9

    15

    17

    13

    6

    12

    15

    12

    Borrow digital audio books

    4

    4

    4

    5

    4

    3

    4

    4

    4

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

    11

    12

    10

    13

    10

    12

    12

    8

    13

    Borrow CDs/Music

    9

    12

    7

    12

    9

    7

    10

    6

    11

    Use reference materials, like the encyclopedia

    9

    12

    7

    9

    9

    9

    9

    7

    11

    Check email

    9

    14

    5

    16

    7

    4

    13

    6

    8

    Read newspapers or magazines

    9

    11

    8

    10

    9

    8

    7

    6

    11

    Consult the librarian

    8

    9

    8

    9

    8

    7

    8

    11

    7

    Connect to the Internet on my own computer or mobile device

    7

    9

    6

    13

    5

    5

    5

    4

    10

    Borrow books on tape/CD

    6

    8

    5

    6

    6

    6

    6

    8

    5

    Attend a kids’ reading or storytime program

    6

    4

    7

    5

    6

    7

    15

    1

    3

    Hear a speaker or attend a special program

    6

    6

    5

    6

    5

    6

    5

    7

    6

    Use a computer to write a paper or prepare a resume

    6

    5

    6

    8

    4

    6

    7

    2

    7

    Take a class or workshop

    5

    6

    4

    7

    5

    3

    10

    3

    3

    See a movie or listen to a concert/performance

    3

    5

    2

    4

    3

    4

    7

    2

    2

    Borrow video games for a gaming platform

    2

    2

    2

    3

    2

    1

    6

    1

    1

    Borrow software and/or games for a computer

    2

    3

     

    3

    2

     

    4

    1

    1

    Other

    8

    7

    9

    8

    8

    9

    5

    10

    10

    None of these

    14

    11

    15

    11

    14

    15

    7

    20

    13

    Note: Multiple responses allowed


     

    TABLE 4

    WHAT IMPORTANT SERVICES DOES THE LIBRARY PERFORM

    Summary Grid

    As you think about your library, how important are the following statements for how you view your local library?

    Base: All adults

    IMPORTANT (NET)

    Very Important

    Somewhat Important

    NOT IMPORTANT (NET)

    Not That Important

    Not At All Important

    As a valuable education

    resource

    %

    89

    59

    30

    11

    7

    4

    As a pillar of the

    community

    %

    77

    33

    44

    23

    16

    7

    As a community center

    %

    73

    31

    42

    27

    18

    8

    As a cultural center

    %

    70

    29

    41

    30

    20

    10

    As a family destination

    %

    68

    31

    36

    32

    21

    11

    As an entertainment

    resource

    %

    65

    22

    43

    35

    24

    11


     

    TABLE 5

    LIBRARY CARDS FOR CHILDREN

    By Have a Library Card & Parental Status

    How important do you think it is that a child has his or her own library card?

    Base: U.S. adults

    Total

    Gender

    Education

    Have a Library Card

    Parental Status

    Male

    Female

    High School or Less

    Some College

    College Grad

    Post Grad

    Yes

    No

    Children <18

    Children 18+

    No Children

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    IMPORTANT (NET)

    89

    86

    92

    85

    93

    92

    94

    95

    79

    88

    93

    88

    Very Important

    56

    49

    61

    49

    62

    51

    71

    68

    33

    55

    62

    53

    Somewhat Important

    34

    37

    31

    36

    31

    40

    23

    27

    46

    33

    32

    35

    NOT IMPORTANT (NET)

    11

    14

    8

    15

    7

    8

    6

    5

    21

    12

    7

    12

    Not That Important

    8

    11

    6

    12

    6

    6

    4

    4

    16

    9

    6

    9

    Not At All Important

    2

    3

    2

    3

    1

    3

    2

    1

    4

    3

    1

    3


     

    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

    Have Library Card

    Parental Status

    Yes

    No

    Children <18

    Children 18+

    No Children

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    EXTREMELY/VERY SATISFIED (NET)

    59

    66

    78

    44

    69

    71

    62

    Extremely Satisfied

    20

    24

    32

    9

    26

    29

    21

    Very Satisfied

    39

    42

    47

    35

    43

    42

    41

    Somewhat Satisfied

    22

    20

    15

    28

    22

    19

    20

    A LITTLE/NOT AT ALL SATISFIED (NET)

    6

    5

    3

    8

    4

    5

    5

    Only A Little Satisfied

    4

    3

    2

    5

    3

    3

    4

    Not At All Satisfied

    2

    2

    1

    3

    2

    2

    1

    Not Sure

    13

    9

    3

    20

    4

    5

    13


    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between July 16 and 21, 2014 among 2,306 adults (aged 18 and over), 1,476 of whom have library cards. 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¨ #89, September 24, 2014

    By Hannah Pollack, Harris Poll Research Analyst

    About The Harris Poll¨

    Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, visit the Harris Poll News Room.