This brief identifies important changes public libraries have made to address patron needs in an increasingly Internet-centric environment and explores service differences in urban and rural communities. A comparison of more than 11 years of Public Library Survey data suggests that service changes in U.S. public libraries are having an impact on visitation and circulation, as record numbers of people now use public libraries nationwide.
Several findings from the surveyinclude:
* The availability of Internet terminals in public libraries rose sharply between 2000 and 2007, increasing by 90 percent on a per capita basis. This dramatic increase is one example of the way U.S. public libraries are expanding their range of services to meet patron demand.
* Between 1997 and 2007, per capita visits to public libraries increased nationwide by 19 percent. During the same period per capita circulation increased by 12 percent. This growth in demand for library services occurred even as people increasingly turned to the Internet to meet other information needs.
* The study identified very different trajectories between urban and rural communities for select service trends, highlighting the importance of local context for identifying patron needs and improving services.
Institute of Museum and Library Services. (2010). Service Trends in U.S.
Public Libraries, 1997-2007. Washington, DC: Author.