In 2019, Americans went to the library more often than the movies
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A recently-published Gallup poll found that Americans visited the library far more often than any other cultural institution in 2019.

The poll found that the average American visited a library 10.5 times a year. According to the American Library Association, there were 1.4 billion in-person visits to the public library in the U.S. in 2016, the equivalent of about 4 million visits each day.

That more than doubles the average Americas tip to the movies (5), sporting events (5), theatrical or musical performances (4), and trips to the museum (2.5).


"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," poll author Justin McCarthy wrote.

"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."

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The last time Gallup took a similar poll n 2001, Americans' average annual trips to the library were about the same. This year's poll found that Americans have also increased the number of trips they take to national parks by 1.3 and museums by 0.7 visits.

Over that period, the average has American visited the movies one time less each year. That tracks an overall theme for the film business.

In 2019 movie attendance hit a 19-year low. There are many reasons for this dip in attendance, but the popularity of streaming services has taken a big chunk out of the movie business. Piracy has also reduced attendance.

While the fact that Americans still love heading to the library is great news for communities, the strength of the public institution is at odds with an overall trend in American life: we're reading fewer books.

The Pew Research Center reports that in 2019, 27% of Americans say they did not read a book, either in whole or in part. That's up 8% from the 19% of Americans who said they didn't read a book in 2011.

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The media landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years with the emergence of video games and social media taking up a lot of Americans leisure time. But, according to Caleb Crain at The New Yorker, television is still the number one foe of the written word.

"Television, rather than the Internet, likely remains the primary force distracting Americans from books, Crain writes. Noting that the average amount of time Americans spend per night is actually still on the rise.

"America's average TV time is still rising," he writes, "because TV watchers are, incredibly, watching more and more of it, the quantity rising from 3.28 hours in 2003 to 3.45 hours in 2016."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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