Libraries were the ‘most common cultural activity' for many Americans last year.
In happy news, a U.S. study found that more Americans went to visit libraries in 2019 than they did movie theatres, sporting events, concerts, amusement parks, or zoos. While all of these other attractions have their own merits, of course, it's good to know that libraries are not shrivelling up in a digital age, when so much information and entertainment is available on our phones. From the report:
“The average 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities. Americans attend live music or theatrical events and visit national or historic parks roughly four times a year on average and visit museums and gambling casinos 2.5 times annually. Trips to amusement or theme parks (1.5) and zoos (.9) are the least common activities among this list.”
The study, conducted by Gallup this past December, found that women are twice as likely to go to a library as men, who gravitate more toward casinos, sporting events, and national parks. Also, it's mostly adults between the ages of 18 and 29 who go to libraries. Perhaps this is because some are college students who rely on the library for resources and study space, but it could also be that many are becoming parents around this age (the average first-time mother is 26) and are looking for a way to get out of the house and entertain their child.
The discovery that libraries are still so popular shouldn't come as a surprise. More towns have libraries than the other attractions mentioned above, but that accessibility is only part of their appeal. Libraries stand out for many other reasons, not least of all because they're free at a time when everything else seems to have escalating entry fees.
They are mercifully geared toward young kids, with books, toys, décor, fish tanks, craft tables, coat hangers, accessible bathrooms, and so much more making parents feel welcome. These kid areas are usually separated from the adult areas, which mean that adults can enjoy a peaceful visit without disturbance.
I'm continually impressed by the range of items and services available at my local library. They can get any book I want to read (my family would never be able to afford our collective reading habit otherwise) and loan out board games, museum passes, fishing rods and tackle boxes and more. They host countless events, from visiting speakers to knitting groups to LEGO and homework clubs to kids' film-making and robotics workshops to movie screenings on days when school's out. The online resources continue to expand, including foreign language and professional development courses.
Libraries are a powerfully positive force in our society, and the more we support them, the more resilient they'll be – and the happier and smarter we'll get, too. So, keep going to the library! Forget Amazon and make the local library your go-to place for books.