Public libraries, especially in the English-speaking world, have a history that goes back centuries, especially in the UK. Public libraries have been a part of American culture and education for more than two centuries.
The expansion of public libraries in the United States owes its growth to one man: Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate. He funded the construction of 1,689 public libraries between 1883 and 1929. Half of the public libraries that existed across America in 1930 had been built with his financial contributions.
The American attitude toward the public library has changed recently. They face challenges such as online access to books and resources, budget pressures, and lately, the pandemic. They are trying to stay relevant by moving to digital services and delivery models to speed up access to documents, improve visitor experience and become more efficient.
Attitudes toward libraries and the library experience vary from state to state. To determine the status with the best and most used libraries, 24/7 Tempo looked at data from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent US government agency. Libraries in each state were ranked by an index of number of outlets, visits, youth and young adult programs, paid staff, books and records, and collections per capita for the year 2019. Institute data was collected from approximately 9,000 public libraries with approximately 17,000 individual public library outlets (main libraries, branches, and bookmobiles).
The Northeastern and Midwestern states have most of the best library systems in America, 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: 4.27
- Libraries and bookmobiles: 30.1 per 100,000 (most)
- Visits: 5.5 per person (third highest)
- Total books and documents: 2,922,933, or 4.6 per person (second tier)
- Population in Vermont service area: 631,386
Click here to see all the best states for public libraries.