Number of Libraries in the United States as of January 2017

Valerie Hawkins
Jan 23, 2017 · 3 min read

A Third Update to ALA Library Fact Sheet 1

There are an estimated 126,881 libraries of all kinds in the United States today!

Thanks to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) FINALLY getting enough funding to calculate it, there’s a new number of school libraries in private schools, which adds 7000+ libraries to the final USA libraries total!

(Yes, I really am this excited about it. Hey, you go maintain a set of statistics for almost twenty years in which one number doesn’t change for almost ten years due to lack of funding and come tell me how you feel — !)


No single annual survey provides statistics on all types of libraries. Figures for public, academic, and school libraries come from surveys by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), while the others come from Information Today’s American Library Directory.

Specifically, the public libraries numbers come from the IMLS Public Libraries Survey (PLS), from the latest report in the series, Public Libraries in the United States Survey: Fiscal Year 2014 (August 2016), from Table 3 of the Supplementary Tables (PDF).

The numbers for academic and school libraries come from the NCES Library Statistics Program and the Schools and Staffing Survey surveys, respectively; specifically —

Figures for special libraries, armed forces libraries, and government libraries come from the American Library DirectoryTM 2016–2017, which is a two-volume set currently published by Information Today, Inc. now in its 69th edition.

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Number of Libraries in the United States as of January 2017

* The number of central buildings is different from the number of public libraries because some public library systems have no central building and some have more than one. Public Libraries in the United States Survey: Fiscal Year 2014 (August 2016) specifically explains in a footnote to Table 3 (PDF):

“Of the 9,070 public libraries in the 50 States and DC, 7,347 were single-outlet libraries and 1,723 were multiple-outlet libraries. Single-outlet libraries are a central library, bookmobile, or books-by-mail-only outlet. Multiple-outlet libraries have two or more direct service outlets, including some combination of one central library, branch(es), bookmobile(s), and/or books-by-mail-only outlet.”

* * Special libraries include Corporate, Medical, Law, Religious, etc.

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