More People Visited Libraries Last Year Than Movie Theaters or Sporting Events

Lots of people like libraries, it turns out

New York Public Library
New data shows that libraries were more popular in 2019 than movies, sporting events and concerts.
DAVID ILIFF/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / January 26, 2020 2:35 pm

In 2019, what was the most-visited destination for the average American? Perhaps it was a trip to a local stadium or arena to watch a sporting event. If not that, surely a movie theater was the top destination, whether for critically acclaimed films or to bask in the glow of the latest blockbuster. As it turns out, neither was, on average, the most visited destination last year. That distinction belongs to libraries — proving that sometimes the classics don’t go out of style.

New data from Gallup indicates the enduring popularity of libraries. “Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far,” writes Gallup’s Justin McCarthy. “The average 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities.”

Rounding out the top 5 after libraries were, in descending order: going to the movies, attending a sporting event, attending a concert or theatrical event and visiting a national or historical park.

One of the advantages libraries have over their counterparts: the breadth of programming that they offer. Someone might go to a library to check out a book or hear an author speak; they might also be there to look for a job or do research for an assignment. And some libraries also offer museum-quality exhibits and film screenings — all of which surely contributed to their popularity.

At Literary Hub, Dan Sheehan noted some interesting statistics from Gallup’s data — namely, that libraries are more popular among women than men, and that they’re frequented most often by adults in low-income households.

Gallup’s data indicates that libraries are popular across all age groups and geographic regions, as well as with people both with and without kids. For longtime fans of the services libraries provide, this data makes for an encouraging read.

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