ULC Releases Library Insights Survey Data

Urban Libraries Council contrasts pre-pandemic data with 2022 library stats to reveal growth in digital resource use and slow returns to in-person visits.

Urban Libraries Council (ULC) announced the release of data from its first-ever Library Insights Survey, providing a snapshot of pre- and post-pandemic library services and operations. Ninety-eight ULC member libraries shared data from 2019 and 2022 on the topics of in-person visits, program attendance, digital and physical circulation, computer use, and budgets.

The survey revealed a 44% decline in library visits from 2019 to 2022, with preliminary 2023 data indicating continued growth from pandemic lows. Program attendance also declined between 2019 and 2022 by 58%, driven, in part, by a 71% reduction in the number of programs offered during that time.

Decreases in computer usage (26%), room reservations (23%) and wireless sessions (37%) from 2019 to 2022 have some member libraries assessing on-site computer lab and WiFi investments and considering more laptop, mobile device and hotspot lending, says Liz Bartolomeo, ULC Director of Communications.

While the data show fewer library visitors coming into library buildings compared to pre-pandemic times, demand for digital content has surged since 2019. Survey respondents reported an average 30% increase in digital books, magazines, and streaming video circulation from 2019 to 2022.

Budgets also grew during this period with libraries reporting an average 8% increase from FY2019 to FY2022. Some of that growth may be attributable to COVID relief funds, however, and would require new or increased funding from other sources to sustain 2022 levels.

ULC reports plans to update the Library Insights Survey annually.

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