Public libraries, particularly in the English-speaking world, have a history that dates back centuries, particularly in the United Kingdom. Public libraries have been part of American culture and education for over two centuries.
The U.S. expansion of public libraries owes its growth heavily to one man: Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate. He underwrote the building of 1,689 public libraries between 1883 and 1929. Half of the public libraries that existed across America in 1930 had been built because of his financial contributions.
The American attitude toward the public library has changed recently. They face challenges that include online access to books and resources, budgetary pressures and, of late, the pandemic. They are trying to stay relevant by shifting to digital services and delivery models to speed access to materials, improving the experience of visitors and becoming more efficient.
Attitudes about libraries and the library experience vary from state to state. To determine the state with the best and most used libraries, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent U.S. government agency. Each state’s libraries were ranked on an index of the number of outlets, visits, youth and young adult programs, paid staff, books and files and collections per capita for the year 2019. The institute’s data was collected from about 9,000 public libraries with approximately 17,000 individual public library outlets (main libraries, branches and bookmobiles).
Northeastern and Midwestern states account for most of America’s best library systems, with Vermont, Kansas, Iowa, Ohio and Maine doing the best job of providing books, materials, outlets and more to their residents.
The best state for public libraries is Vermont. Here are the details:
- Index score: 4.27
- Libraries and bookmobiles: 30.1 per 100,000 (the most)
- Visits: 5.5 per person (third highest)
- Total books and documents: 2,922,933, or 4.6 per person (second most)
- Population in the Vermont service area: 631,386
Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor
Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Tempo Editorial team.