The Nation's Largest Public Libraries: Top 25 Rankings

ALA Library Fact Sheet 13

This fact sheet lists the top 25 public libraries in the United States by four specific statistical measures; namely, by size of population served, by the size of the library collection, by the number of times items in the collection were checked out, and number of visits to the library.

These public library statistics come from the Public Libraries in the United States Survey of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. The Public Libraries Survey (PLS) provides statistics on the status of public libraries in the United States. The data are collected from approximately 9,000 public libraries with approximately 17,000 individual public library outlets in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and outlying territories.

Specifically, all four tables were created with the IMLS Compare Public Libraries data analysis tool, which currently uses PLS Fiscal Year 2012 data.

 

Top 25 public libraries by size of population served with total collection expenditures

Data from Institute of Museum and Library Services, Public Libraries Survey (PLS) Fiscal Year: 2012

For Population of the Legal Service Area, the PLS Fiscal Year 2012 Data Element Definitions (PDF) state: The number of people in the geographic area for which a public library has been established to offer services and from which (or on behalf of which) the library derives revenue, plus any areas served under contract for which the library is the primary service provider.

Under Collection Expenditures: This includes all operating expenditures from the library budget for all materials in print, microform, electronic, and other formats considered part of the collection, whether purchased, leased, or licensed. Total Collection Expenditures: This is the sum of Print Materials Expenditures, Electronic Materials Expenditures, and Other Materials Expenditures.

PLEASE NOTE: In contrast to the twenty-five public libraries listed below that serve in excess of 1,000,000 people, it's important to keep in mind that these are the anomaly; nearly 80% of the public libraries in the United States serve populations under 25,000 people.

Rank Library Name Population of Legal Service Area Total Collection Expenditures Total Collection Expenditures per Capita
1 Los Angeles Public Library, CA 3,825,297 $7,335,252 $1.92
2 New York Public Library, The Branch Libraries, NY  3,439,711 $24,078,205 $7.00
3 County of Los Angeles Public Library, CA 3,344,311 $8,491,145 $2.54
4 Chicago Public Library, IL 2,695,598 $7,000,000 $2.60
5 Brooklyn Public Library, NY 2,504,700 $7,142,083 $2.85
6 Queens Borough Public Library, NY 2,230,722 $4,119,147 $1.85
7 Miami-Dade Public Library System, FL 2,196,303 $1,510,177 $0.69
8 Houston Public Library, TX 2,145,146 $5,157,677 $2.40
9 Harris County Public Library, TX 1,795,998 $3,054,527 $1.70
10 Broward County Libraries Division, FL 1,771,099 $7,395,801 $4.18
11 San Antonio Public Library, TX 1,626,092 $3,818,478 $2.35
12 Orange County Public Libraries, CA 1,534,312 $1,388,463 $0.90
13 Free Library of Philadelphia, PA 1,526,006 $4,991,420 $3.27
14 Phoenix Public Library, AZ 1,464,727 $5,200,376 $3.55
15 Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, NV 1,463,675 $6,975,559 $4.77
16 Hawaii State Public Library System, HI 1,374,810 $2,882,625 $2.10
17 King County Library System, WA 1,362,870 $12,351,566 $9.06
18 Sacramento Public Library, CA 1,362,428 $3,124,119 $2.29
19 San Diego Public Library, CA 1,321,315 $3,270,799 $2.48
20 Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, FL 1,256,118 $5,446,169 $4.34
21 Dallas Public Library, TX 1,223,229 $2,282,284 $1.87
22 San Bernadino County Library, CA 1,200,798 $268,740 $0.22
23 Riverside County Library System, CA 1,171,366 $1,016,318 $0.87
24 Hennepin County Library, MN 1,163,060 $6,658,341 $5.72
25 Orange County Library District, FL 1,132,302 $4,520,685 $3.99

 

 


 

Top 25 public libraries by holdings

Data from Institute of Museum and Library Services, Public Libraries Survey (PLS) Fiscal Year: 2012

For Library Collection, the PLS Fiscal Year 2012 Data Element Definitions state (slightly edited): This section of the survey collects data on selected types of materials. Under this category, report only items the library has acquired as part of the collection, whether purchased, leased, licensed, or donated as gifts.

There are also specific definitions for Print Materials, Electronic Books (E-Books), Audio - physical units, and Video - physical units.

Rank Library Name Print Materials Electronic Books Audio and Video Total Holdings
1 New York Public Library, the Branch Libraries, NY 20,889,337 262,444 2,080,901 23,232,682
2 Boston Public Library, MA 8,947,271 20,198 168,144 9,135,613
3 Detroit Public Library, MI 6,870,782 982 245,137 7,116,901
4 Los Angeles Public Library, CA 6,301,338 37,077 582,658 6,921,073
5 County of Los Angeles Public Library, CA 5,367,967 16,593 948,541 6,333,101
6 Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, OH 4,772,281 125,076 930,374 5,827,731
7 Chicago Public Library, IL 5,032,111 11,016 365,282 5,408,409
8 San Diego Public Library, CA 4,883,416 56,052 439,889 5,379,357
9 Queens Borough Public Library, NY 4,481,261 27,192 497,674 5,006,127
10 Hennepin County Library, MN 4,274,219 78,062 301,126 4,653,407
11 King County Library System, WA 3,623,876 98,948 712,035 4,434,859
12 Dallas Public Library, TX 4,131,672 10,153 249,993 4,391,818
13 Hawaii State Public Library System, HI 3,393,557 11,688 415,035 3,820,280
14 Cleveland Public Library, OH 3,283,319 79,089 358,892 3,721,300
15 Broward County Libraries Division, FL 2,764,321 115,810 783,553 3,663,684
16 Miami-Dade Public Library System, FL 3,294,232 30,002 253,858 3,578,092
17 Brooklyn Public Library, NY 3,179,126 43,994 275,428 3,498,548
18 Free Library of Philadelphia, PA 2,811,962 146,656 489,465 3,448,083
19 Allen County Public Library, IN 2,996,595 28,220 230,980 3,255,795
20 San Francisco Public Library, CA 2,723,178 19,170 360,927 3,103,275
21 Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, NV 2,222,341 79,921 646,349 2,948,611
22 Houston Public Library, TX 2,682,526 19,736 225,749 2,928,011
23 Jacksonville Public Library, FL 2,342,818 31,502 498,316 2,872,636
24 Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH 1,756,053 109,887 900,195 2,766,135
25 Mid-Continent Public Library, MO 2,367,164 7,805 382,825 2,757,794

 

 


 

Top 25 public libraries by circulation

Data from Institute of Museum and Library Services, Public Libraries Survey (PLS) Fiscal Year: 2012

For Total Circulation, the PLS Fiscal Year 2012 Data Element Definitions (PDF) state: The total annual circulation of all library materials of all types, including renewals.

Rank Library Name Total Circulation
1 New York Public Library, the Branch Libraries, NY 26,976,911
2 Multnomah County Library, OR 24,794,942
3 King County Library System, WA 20,304,950
4 Brooklyn Public Library, NY 19,238,573
5 Queens Borough Public Library, NY 17,939,473
6 Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, OH 17,005,854
7 Hennepin County Library, MN 16,656,427
8 County of Los Angeles Public Library, CA 16,521,156
9 Salt Lake County Library System, UT 16,192,314
10 Harris County Public Library, TX 15,682,754
11 Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, IN 15,494,195
12 Los Angeles Public Library, CA 15,337,032
13 Orange County Library District, FL 15,169,395
14 Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH 15,058,583
15 Phoenix Public Library, AZ 14,069,666
16 Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, NV 13,449,178
17 Fairfax County Public Library, VA 13,034,816
18 Saint Louis County Library, MO 12,666,344
19 Wake County Public Libraries, NC 12,163,419
20 San Diego County Library, CA 11,988,559
21 San Jose Public Library, CA 11,544,886
22 Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, FL 11,021,226
23 San Francisco Public Library, CA 10,854,725
24 Baltimore County Public Library, MD 10,577,067
25 Dallas Public Library, TX 10,236,949

 

 


 

Top 25 public libraries by library visits

Data from Institute of Museum and Library Services, Public Libraries Survey (PLS) Fiscal Year: 2012

For Library Visits, the PLS Fiscal Year 2012 Data Element Definitions (PDF) state: This is the total number of persons entering the library for whatever purpose during the year.

Rank Library Name Library Visits Population of Legal Service Area Library Visits per Capita
1 New York Public Library, The Branch Libraries, NY  18,162,641 3,439,711 5.28
2 Los Angeles Public Library, CA 13,821,289 3,825,297 3.61
3 Queens Borough Public Library, NY 12,881,000 2,230,722 5.77
4 Brooklyn Public Library, NY 12,024,071 2,504,700 4.8
5 County of Los Angeles Public Library, CA 11,832,995 3,344,311 3.54
6 Chicago Public Library, IL 11,182,193 2,695,598 4.15
7 King County Library System, WA 10,156,339 1,362,870 7.45
8 Broward County Libraries Division, FL 8,749,429 1,771,099 4.94
9 Wake County Public Libraries, NC 7,931,842 925,938 8.57
10 Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH 7,799,480 616,527 12.65
11 Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, OH 7,395,284 802,374 9.22
12 Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH 7,359,664 850,548 8.65
13 San Francisco Public Library, CA 7,248,424 812,538 8.92
14 Miami-Dade Public Library System, FL 6,762,294 2,196,303 3.08
15 Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, NV 6,673,789 1,463,675 4.56
16 Seattle Public Library, WA 6,470,116 616,500 10.49
17 Palm Beach County Library System, FL 6,313,598 885,934 7.13
18 San Jose Public Library, CA 6,168,223 971,372 6.35
19 Free Library of Philadelphia, PA 5,961,777 1,526,006 3.91
20 San Diego County Library, CA 5,920,891 1,067,521 5.55
21 Saint Louise County Library, MO 5,752,996 859,148 6.7
22 San Diego Public Library, CA 5,602,380 1,321,315 4.24
23 Harris County Public Library, TX 5,409,433 1,795,998 3.01
24 Pima County Public Library, AZ 5,404,382 935,624 5.78
25 Hennepin County Library, MN 5,392,726 1,163,060 4.64

 

Created: August 2014

 

For more information on this or other fact sheets, including copies of previous versions, contact the ALA Library Reference Desk by telephone: 800-545-2433, extension 2153; fax: 312-280-3255; e-mail: library@ala.org; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611.