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Satisfaction with Public Libraries Has Increased Since 2008

Nine in ten adults believe it is important for a child to have his or her own library card

NEW YORK, Sept. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- 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.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,306 U.S. adults surveyed online between July 16 and 21, 2014. (Full results, including data tables, available here)

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.

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

Want Harris Polls delivered direct to your inbox?  Click here!

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.

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
The Harris Poll
[email protected]

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SOURCE The Harris Poll

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