Libraries Versus Movies: Is There Any Contest? Nope, Not Really.

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There’s a very modern mindset that libraries are antiquated things: obsolete, archaic and dusty old buildings that sit unused. I mean, who needs a library (the thought goes) when you can pull out your phone and instantly have an enormous internet of things at your fingertips?

But a recent Gallup poll suggests that ain’t so, Joe. In fact, it showed that even in the digital screen and streaming age, libraries remain an important fixture in communities across the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Through a poll of more than 1,000 adults across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Gallup discovered that going to the library was “by far” the most common activity enjoyed by Americans. And that includes seeing a movie or going to a local sporting event.

Going to the library topped the list of activities for the respondents, who averaged 10.5 visits in 2019. By comparison, those polled took only 5.3 visits to the local movie theater and 4.7 trips to sporting events. The list stretched on through things like trips to museums, live music and theater jaunts, national park excursions, etc. Down at the very bottom of the list was the zoo, with Americans making just an average of just 0.9 visits in the year.

If you’re the argumentative type, you might scoff and say that, hey, the library is free, and all those other things cost money. And unless you’re one of those miscreant types who’re running from 20 years of overdue book fines, that’s true. You might even suggest that kids are hitting the library just for the free Wi-Fi. And to a certain extent that’s true, too. According to a 2016 Pew Research study, 29% of library goers went mainly to access computers and public Internet connections. But that leaves over 70% of visitors, young and old, who might actually be borrowing books, broadening their mindset and bettering themselves through the printed word. That’s pretty cool.

Oh, and as an interesting side note, as the Gallup gang ticked through the different age groups and their favorite activities, they stated that adults with children in the household were more likely to go to the movies than those without kids in the home (6.8 versus 4.7 average visits, respectively). That was a curious detail that caught my Plugged In eye. It’s a stat that all those hard-R movie makers might want to think about, too.

In any case, it’s just a fun fact that libraries are very much alive and well. And the polled visit percentages have remained pretty much exactly the same since the last Gallup survey back in 2001 (except for a small 1.3 visit-per-year dip in movie-going, interestingly enough).

Yep, reading is still fun, free and available at your local library. Oh, and for all you library non-visitors, here’s a fun fact: In the library you can set off on your reading venture with this great little screenless thing made of paper, glue and ink called … a book. It’s so retro cool. Everybody’s doing it.

I hear zoos are thinking of getting in on it.

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous 10 months ago
Libraries aren’t just for books anymore either. My city’s library system has a healthy collection of movies, video games, and CDs alongside the regular magazines, books, and audiobooks. Pair all that with a Makerspace in a couple of locations and a ton of digital content access (courses, streaming, and other resources) and it’s no surprise that the library is alive and well in my city.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Your library has video games?! Wow, no wonder libraries are still relevant.
[removed] 10 months ago
This comment has been deleted
The Kenosha Kid 10 months ago
Why? Libraries are the oldest and best repositories of reliable knowledge and quality entertainment we have. I think everyone across the political spectrum could agree on that.
Edna Konrad 10 months ago
Yeah but PI freaks out over a single sentence about something they don't like in a movie. I guess they don't realize that there are entire books on magic, other religions, LGBT people, etc all available for a child to browse right at their local library lol.
The Kenosha Kid 10 months ago
Nah, Plugged In knows that. It's just more geared toward parents who want to know exactly what their kids are going to see in specific pieces of popular culture. 

Whereas there's no way to enumerate all the adult content in a library. It's more of an active experience of seeking out knowledge and entertainment. PI does review some books, but the only way you can really keep an eye on a kid in a library is to browse with them.
Anonymous 10 months ago

I just checkout out The Call of the Wild from my local library and basically I'm so glad I saw the movie first since the book was way more violent, bloodthirsty, and downright cruel compared to the movie. I normally want my movies to be as close to the source material as possible, with maybe a slight addition or change here or there, but the book's so visceral and downright gruesome at times I'm glad they essentially Disney-fied the movie. The movie's absolutely stunning with gorgeous looking CGI and tons of intense emotional moments throughout, but the book's way too bloody and almost Stephen King like for my tastes.


Other than that, I absolutely love going to the library, mostly because my computer gave up the ghost 6 years ago and it was too much of a bother to keep on paying money for it to be fixed temporarily for 8 or 9 months only for it to break down again. But I do occasionally check out a book or two (that's how I first got into Shakespeare after all and how I've managed to read all of Mitch Albom's books as well as Stephen King's and other classics like Gulliver's Travels and The Pilgrim's Progress), but I also have managed to hear lots of cd's both old and new from the library and even sometimes rent a movie or two. Plus during their book sales I've managed to buy some books mostly in hardback for a buck or two each, and I've even gotten DVD's for 3 bucks each or dollar cd's too. That's how I got Iron & Wine's The Shepherd's Dog, Red's Innocence & Instinct, Oasis's Don't Believe the Truth, Fiona Apple's Tidal, and Rush's Retrospective Vol. 3 cd/dvd version among others for so cheap as well.

Natalie L 10 months ago
Yes, the book is violent. I remember my mom reading it aloud to us when we were just youngelings. Somehow we still loved it...
The Mouse Of Non 10 months ago
Compared to other novels I've read, The Call of the Wild is mild if I'm being honest. Still a really great book though.
Edna Konrad 10 months ago
White Fang was worse ._.