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ALA News Release
For Immediate Release
July 7, 1998

New poll shows 2 of 3 adults are library users

The front desk at the New Orleans public library.

Despite super bookstores, video stores, health clubs and home computers vying for attention, Americans continue to use their public libraries in record numbers, according to a new poll conducted by the Gallup Organization for the American Library Association (ALA).

The poll found 66 percent of Americans used a public library at least once in the last year in person, by telephone or online. Sixty-five percent consulted a librarian. The findings were released June 29 at the American Library Association's 117th annual conference held June 25-July 1 in the nation's capital. More than 24,000 librarians and library supporters attended.

The number of library visitors is up 13 percent since 1978. Most-81 percent-checked out a book. Fifty-one percent used reference materials; 50 percent read newspapers and magazines; 32 percent borrowed records, CDs or videos. Nineteen percent called the library for information.

Seventeen percent said they connected to the Internet-and 9 percent say they connected to the library online from their homes or offices. A large majority-90 percent-said they believe libraries will continue to be a necessary service despite the growing availability of computers. Two out of 5 (40 percent) said they consider the library one of the most important tax supported services.

"Libraries today are better than ever," says Barbara J. Ford, immediate past president of the American Library Association. "They offer more hours, more books, more online resources, storyhours for kids and a variety of cultural programs for adults. Some even have coffee bars."

Slightly more women (53 percent) than men report using the library. The survey found the heaviest library use is by those ages 35-54 (43 percent). Thirty-five percent of library users are 18-34 and 22 percent over age 55. Of those who use libraries, 35 percent are college graduates, 34 percent had some college; and 31 percent had high school diplomas or less. Thirty-five percent have children and two-thirds of those say they take them to the library.

More than a quarter (26 percent) of the library users have incomes of $60,000 or more, 20 percent have incomes of $40,000-$60,000; and 29 percent have incomes of $20,000-$40,000. Fourteen percent have incomes of $20,000 or less.

The telephone survey, conducted in May 1998 for ALA by the Gallup Organization, was of a randomly selected national sample of 1,000 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

For a copy of the poll, please send $1 to: American Library Association Public Information Office, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611.

Copyright 1998 by American Library Association

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