Humanities Indicators
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Public Life  >  Public Libraries
 
Public Library Revenue, Expenditures, and Funding Sources

Growth in public library use from 1995 to 2009 was accompanied by an increase in library revenue and expenditures. Since 2009, however, library visits and circulation have fallen, as have expenditures, which by 2014 had declined to the level of the early 2000s.

Findings and Trends

  • In 2013, per capita public library expenditures were $36.50, which was 26% higher than in 1995 (Indicator V-10a; all amounts are given in 2014 dollars). Growth in expenditures over this period occurred in two distinct phases (from 1995 to 2002 and again from 2005 to 2009) separated by a plateau. The year 2010 was the first year in which expenditures declined, and libraries’ per capita spending fell 8% by 2014 from its peak in 2009.
  • Per capita library expenditures on staff, which made up approximately two-thirds of all expenditures during this time period, were 30% greater in 2014 than in 1995. As with total expenditures, 2010 was the first year to bring a decline in library spending on staff, and by 2014 per capita spending was down 8% from the peak in 2009. Expenditures on collections grew gradually up to 2001 but then declined slightly in most subsequent years. As a result, expenditures on collections were 6% lower in 2014 than in 1995. Other library expenditures increased by 37% from 1995 to 2014.[1]
  • Public libraries received the vast majority of their revenue from local government (Indicator V-10b). The local share began increasing in 2002, and that by 2014 local funds represented 86% of all library revenues, up from 78% in 1995. Over the same time period, the share of funding garnered from state government decreased from 12% to 7%, while the share received from “other” sources (donations, fees, and grants) dropped slightly, from near 9% to 7%.
  • During the 1995–2014 period, the federal government was the source of a small (1% or less) and declining proportion of library revenues. (These values were too small to be included in the figure; for the federal percentage values, see Supporting Table V-10b). Federal funds came mostly in the form of Library Services and Technology Act grant monies distributed by state library agencies.
  • The range of state per capita public library expenditures was considerable (Indicator V-10c). The District of Columbia, with the highest per capita amount, spent approximately $82 per capita in 2014. The lowest spender, Mississippi, had a per capita expenditure of $16.
V-10a: Per Capita Operating Expenditures of Public Libraries, Fiscal Years 1995–2013 (Adjusted for Inflation)*

* Values presented are for the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Calculations were performed on all surveyed libraries, not just those meeting Institute of Museum and Library Services criteria for public libraries. Expenditure amounts have been adjusted for inflation using the annual gross domestic product deflators (seasonally adjusted) produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis. Deflators were downloaded from the website of the Federal Reserve of St. Louis at http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/GDPDEF/downloaddata?cid=21.
** Includes expenditures for binding, supplies, repair or replacement of existing furnishings and equipment, and costs of computer hardware and software used to support library operations or to link to external networks, including the Internet; also includes expenditures for service contracts, such as costs of operating and maintaining physical facilities, and fees paid to consultants, auditors, architects, attorneys, and so on.

Source:U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Public Libraries Survey (1995–2005); Institute of Museum and Library Services, Public Libraries in the United States Survey (2006–2013).

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V-10b: Distribution of Public Libraries’ Operating Revenue among Sources, Fiscal Years 1995–2013

* Values presented are for the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Calculations were performed on all surveyed libraries, not just those meeting Institute of Museum and Library Services criteriafor public libraries.
** Includes monetary gifts and donations received in the current year, interest, library fines, fees for library services, and grants. For the share of libraries’ operating revenue that derived from federal sources, see Supporting Table V-10b.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Public Libraries Survey (1995–2005); Institute of Museum and Library Services, Public Libraries in the United States Survey (2006–2013).

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V-10c: Per Capita Operating Expenditures of Public Libraries, by State (including the District of Columbia), Fiscal Year 2013

* Values presented are for the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Calculations were performed on all surveyed libraries, not just those meeting Institute of Museum and Library Sciences criteria for public libraries.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Public Libraries Survey (1995–2005); and Institute of Museum and Library Services, Public Libraries in the United States Survey (2006–2013).

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Endnotes

[1] The “Other” expenditure category includes monies spent on binding, supplies, repair or replacement of existing furnishings and equipment, and costs of computer hardware and software used to support library operations or to link to external networks, including the Internet; also includes expenditures for contracts for services, such as costs of operating and maintaining physical facilities, and fees paid to consultants, auditors, architects, attorneys, and so on.