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."
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.
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."
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