In 2019, more Americans went to the library than the movies. Yes, really

In the age of superhero movies and Netflix, you might think good old fashioned books are going down the drain — but they aren’t. A new Gallup poll found that on average, Americans went to the library much more often than they went to the movies.

The library is as old as civilization itself. The value of storing written content in one place and making it accessible has been well understood for centuries.

But in recent times, libraries seem to have gone into decline. Our entertainment has changed so much, as we have access to an unprecedented trove of entertainment — music, movies, series, you name it; it’s all available in a number of ways. In addition, with the power of the internet at the tip of our fingers, we also have access to the sum of human knowledge through our computers and smartphones.

Nevertheless, libraries remain a remarkably popular activity in the US, according to a new Gallup poll. The poll, the first of its kind carried since 2001, show that Americans are twice more likely to go to the library than to the movies, for instance.

“Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far,” the report reads. “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.”

In modern times, the role of the library has somewhat changed, but it remains a valuable resource, especially for some groups.

Women love libraries

Some groups love libraries more than others, the poll showed. Women, for instance, report visiting the library nearly twice as frequently as men do, 13.4 to 7.5 visits. Men are more likely to visit natural and historic parks, as well as less cultural places, such as casinos.

Libraries were most frequented by young adults, women and low-income households. Americans in high-income households tend to enjoy more varied activities, while Americans in low-income households participate in less. It’s not surprising then that the library, which is free and provides access to services such as WiFi and sometimes, free courses, is an important resource. If anything, this is a strong reminder to how important libraries are, even in the digital age.

When you draw the line, it’s remarkable that despite digital books, podcasts, and streaming, libraries have endured as a place that Americans visit nearly monthly.

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About Mihai Andrei

Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.

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