More Americans Visited The Library Last Year Than The Movies

by Madison Vanderberg
Originally Published: 
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More Americans went to the library last year than the movies or any other cultural activity

As the world becomes increasingly digital, one might assume that libraries are at risk of going extinct, and we’re pleasantly surprised to report that that’s absolutely not the case. A new Gallup poll shows that in 2019, Americans made more trips to the library than any other cultural activity, which the poll designated as going to the movies, seeing a live sporting event, seeing live music or theater, or visiting a national park, museum, casino, or theme park.

On average, Americans went to the library 10.5 times per year and only went to the movies 5.3 times per year. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that money might have something to do with it. The library is free, whereas a superhero movie on opening weekend in 3D with popcorn and drinks for the whole family is well over $100.

Other cultural activities paled in comparison to library trips. Americans went to less than five sporting events last year and concert or theater trips clocked in at 3.8 average visits per year.

“Despite the proliferation of digital-based activities over the past two decades — including digital books, podcasts, streaming entertainment services and advanced gaming — libraries have endured as a place Americans visit nearly monthly on average,” the Gallup report claims. “Whether because they offer services like free Wi-Fi, movie rentals, or activities for children, libraries are most utilized by young adults, women and residents of low-income households.”

Women went to the library 13.4 times per year, while men only went 7.5 times, and library trips decreased in frequency as household income increased. Interestingly, library trips were consistent across households with and without young children, which Gallup thinks has to do with the fact that young childless people go to the library while they are in college and then they typically return to the library with the same frequency once they have kids.

Another interesting tidbit is that people in the Midwest go to the library the most (12.9 times per year), while the South only visits the library 9.3 times per year, slightly less than the national average.

Also, the last time Gallup did this poll was in 2001 and library trips actually increased slightly in those 19 years. However, the only drawback to this pro-library report is that while Gallup proves that library trips topped all over cultural activities, the poll doesn’t say how many Americans actually go to the library. The latest research on that front is a 2016 Pew Research report which stated that only 48% of Americans actually reported going to the library in 2016.

At the end of the day, books aren’t dead, and that’s heartening to see.

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