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Americans Visited Libraries More Than a Billion Times in One Year

Woman browsing library shelves

A new report from the Institute for Museum of Library Services shows more than 170 million Americans went to their public libraries in 2017 a total of 1.32 billion times. That means every American who lives within a public library’s service area—or about 312 million people—headed to their library four times over the course of the year.

The report also revealed that public libraries offered 5.6 million programs in 2017, which were attended by more than 118 million participants.

For library lovers, these numbers are no surprise: libraries offer an endless array of entertainment and education for people of all ages, from free access to books and other media to makerspaces and workshops.

This year, the devastating COVID-19 pandemic has halted in-person library services and programming. Still, this is the perfect time to pay a virtual visit to your library’s website—libraries across the country have expanded their online offerings to keep their communities engaged with maintaining social distancing. Here are a few ways you can continue safely enjoying your library from home:

Check Out Digital Media

Libraries provide free online access to a wide variety of eBooks, audiobooks, movies, magazines, and more. Whether you’re looking for a comfort read, a thought-provoking documentary, or a how-to guide for your next DIY project, your library can help. (Not sure what to read next? Try these pro tips from a librarian for finding the best book recommendations during the pandemic.)

Attend a Virtual Program

Kids, teens, and grown-ups alike have been flocking to remote library programs during COVID-19. Libraries are offering classes, storytimes, book clubs, performances, and more; while most of this programming is online, some libraries offer activities over the phone or even on local radio to ensure people without home internet access can participate too.

Get Help from a Librarian

Need help finding a particular book or deciding how to approach a research question? You may not be able to ask a librarian in person, but libraries are offering free virtual reference assistance to everyone in their communities. Some libraries even have specialized reference programs where you can get one-on-one technology assistance or help with your job search from an expert librarian, all without leaving your home.

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