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.