Of the more than 9,000 public libraries in the U.S. (library systems and standalone libraries, not branches), only 36 have closed and remained closed over the 12 years from 1998 through 2009.
Thirty-six. Less than 0.4%. Over a dozen years.
Breaking down the 36
Of those 36, four are in communities that have full access to other public libraries within less than three miles.
What of the other 32?
- Fourteen served fewer than 500 people each (including five serving fewer than 200).
- Another seven served 539 to 984 people, but still fall into the smallest library category.
- “Larger” public libraries include five serving 1,000 to 2,499 people; two serving 2,500 to 4,999; one serving 5,000 to 9,999; and three—one of them a bookmobile—serving 10,000 to 24,999. Not one of these is large enough to be classified as an urban library.
- The total served by all 32 libraries: 73,931 people—not a trivial number, but still 0.02% of the population served by America’s public libraries, even though it’s roughly 0.4% of the nation’s libraries (noting that more libraries have opened than have closed over those 12 years).
For more information
For much more detail, including how I arrived at these figures, read “Libraries: Public Library Closures: On Not Dropping Like Flies” in Cites & Insights 12:3 (April 2012)–a preliminary study looking only at reported closures in 2008 and 2009–and “Libraries: Public Library Closures 2” in Cites & Insights 12:4 (May 2012).
And if you think this is important information for libraries trying to avoid budget cuts and closures, and faced with the claim that “public libraries are shutting down all across the country,” please link to this post or the articles.