National Data About Public Libraries

This webpage is intended to serve as a clearinghouse for datasets about public libraries, public datasets that have a library element included in them, or census-like data sites that could help library staff gather information about their communities. If you have questions or would like to share your favorite public dataset, please email datadiscussion@ala.org.

Key Characteristics

IMLS Public Library Survey and its Data & Search and Compare Tool: The Public Libraries Survey (PLS) examines when, where, and how library services are changing to meet the needs of the public. These data, supplied annually by public libraries across the country, provide information that policymakers and practitioners can use to make informed decisions about the support and strategic management of libraries. The Library Search & Compare tool provides an easy way to view data and gather peer comparisons from the Public Libraries Survey.

State-by-State Public Library Data: Public library statistics published on state library websites.

Collections

Urban Library Council’s Fine Free Map: An interactive map to help you understand and learn from libraries that have gone fine free.

Technology

Digital Inclusion Survey: The data visualization tool maps all public libraries using the FY2013 Public Library Survey data file released by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for library locations, names, and other library demographic data. The tool overlays Census data (demographic, economic, health, and education) from the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year dataset (2009–2013). The map also includes selected 2013 and 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey data from participating libraries, thus showing the roles that libraries play regarding digital inclusion in their communities.

Data Training for Libraries

Research Institute for Public Libraries: Launched in 2015 by the Colorado State Library (CSL) and the Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC), RIPL is a singular event for public library leaders and others interested in public library data and evaluation. In this immersive, bootcamp-style event, participants learn practical, strategic methods of gathering, analyzing, and using data for planning, management, and communicating impact.

PLA’s Data Pathways: This tool and resource guide will serve as a professional development guide that can be used to move library staff forward to become data competent. As library professionals it has become increasingly important to be able to gather, analyze, and communicate data in order to navigate a data-rich world and make data-driven decisions related to funding, policies, and other resources needed to support the communities we serve.

Publicly Available Datasets that Include Libraries

Hard to Count 2020: The goal of this map is to highlight the areas of the country that are hardest to count for the 2020 Census, and to provide information to local, regional/statewide, and national organizations who are working to make sure these hard-to-count areas and populations are fully counted to help ensure a fair and accurate census. This includes the option to overlay library locations on the hard to count map.

NTIA Digital Nation Data Explorer: Internet Use at a Public Place (Library, Community Center, Park, etc.): The National Telecommunications and Information and Administration’s Data Explorer enables easy tracking of metrics about computer and Internet use over time. Simply choose a metric of interest from the drop-down menu. The default Map mode depicts percentages by state, while Chart mode allows metrics to be broken down by demographics and viewed as either percentages of the population or estimated numbers of people or households.

From Awareness to Funding: OCLC partnered with the American Library Association (ALA) and its Public Library Association (PLA) division to investigate current perceptions and support among U.S. voters and how they may have shifted since 2008 when OCLC published From Awareness to Funding: A Study of Library Support in America, a national study of the awareness, attitudes, and underlying motivations among U.S. voters for supporting library funding.

Publicly Available Datasets About Communities

Census: The Census Bureau's mission is to serve as the nation’s leading provider of quality data about its people and economy. It’s goal is to provide the best mix of timeliness, relevancy, quality and cost for the data collected and services provided.

FCC’s Fixed Broadband Deployment: This application provides a visualization of the residential fixed broadband deployment data collected on FCC Form 477. Facilities-based providers of broadband report fixed-broadband deployment data at the census block level. Form 477 data are reported using 2010 Census blocks.