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In 2019, Americans went more to the library than to the movies on average (gallup.com)
558 points by rahuldottech 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 168 comments

Just post the actual results: https://news.gallup.com/poll/284009/library-visits-outpaced-...

Also, the results don't show at all that "more Americans went to the library than to the movies" but rather that Americans went more to the library than to the movies (on average), which is not very surprising given that only one of them is free.

In other words, if 100 Americans went to the movies once, and 1 American went to the library 101 times, the results would still rank libraries higher than movies despite it being obviously not true that "more Americans went to the library than to the movies."

That link still isn’t to the actual results. Here they are: https://news.gallup.com/file/poll/284015/200123LeisureActivi...

Your page points to this — good luck finding the hyperlink though!

Anyway, defined as “% of population that did the thing at least once”, movies are first, parks second, and libraries third.

Parks have seen a huge uptick in popularity. The other two dropped off (libraries dropped off more than movies).

In terms of median visits per person (probably the better measurement), almost nothing changed.

Concerts went from 1 to 2 visits, libraries went from 3 to 2. I’d guess those are explainable as statistical noise.

There's a whole class of people who practically live in libraries, which makes your example very realistic.

e.g., the neighborhood library is the (non-school) hub of my kindergartener's social life. And therefore, to some extent, mine.

It's one of the few places I know of that has plenty for young children to do, is open in all weather, is anywhere close to home, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg to get into.

My local library is wonderful. My kid has activities, learns reading, draws, etc. and it offers computer skills to those who wouldn't otherwise learn them. Very good use of local tax dollars.

Please make an active effort to support your local library and it’s funding. Consider running for a trustee or other governance position to further this endeavor.

I think OP was referring to homeless people, who enter libraries in order to protect themselves from cold.

I do, too; that's what motivated me to offer a reality check to try and counterbalance what a lot of people are going to (reasonably) interpret as a mean-spirited joke.

Or college students? When I was in school I spent more time in the library than literally anywhere else on Earth other than my house. That's where I did the majority of my homework.

I could also imagine someone working remotely having high library utilization.

I work from the Library. About 1/2 of all people on the computer desks with own laptop are running their business from the library. Free desk open from 9.00 am to 8.00 pm Mon-Fri.

Most co-working spaces charge $20-$100 per day for a desk.

That's interesting! What about calls? You never have work calls with collegues / other people?

My local library has a "phone room" - literally the size of a phone booth. I think there are some usage limits but I've never used it so I'm not sure what they are.

Homeless people use the library more than just a place to get warm. It's a free place to use the toilet. It's an important entry point to social services, and free internet access.

And of course, plenty of people use them as a place to read books, magazines, and newspapers.

Yes, I guess it's like that; I just noticed that when I visited United States (I'm Italian), don't know much about homelessness in United States

Italy also has libraries and homeless people, doesn't it? Are libraries free or discriminatory? Where do homeless people typically spend their time?

I don't know much about homelessness, I'm sorry. I can just say that you can't see so many homeless people as in US cities.

The US has about twice as many homeless people per capita as Italy.

Last year did have some unlimited go-to-the-movies plans, though.

I don't disagree. I think the title was supposed to help people who haven't been think that libraries were good to visit (which they are).

In my opinion, libraries are the single greatest tool an individual has to advance their station in life. I wish more people would take advantage of that opportunity.

> libraries are the single greatest tool an individual has to advance their station in life

Surely the internet beats libraries by a large margin on this.

You can use the Internet on a free library computer. This is great if you don’t own one and don’t have Internet access at home.

... kind of, so long as you live in a large enough area. Some folks still don't have a free, local library they can use. (Some small towns in Indiana aren't included in any library tax districts and cannot freely use the library). Some small (and larger!) towns don't have enough computers for their busy times, so you really must keep your internet time efficient to comply with the 30-minute time limit. This isn't so much an issue if you can go during off times, but not so great if you have to go after school when the library is busy or if you happen to catch them in summer hours when they close early.

I lived in such an area. The library itself was great and really did work on expanding internet access (allowing adults to use a laptop, for example) - but it was a small town with a limited budget. It simply couldn't serve the area better.

> Some small towns in Indiana aren't included in any library tax districts and cannot freely use the library

That's crazy. In California, most libraries are open to all California residents: you can join the San Francisco library even if you live in rural farm parts of California. Great for accessing ebooks.

Actually it doesn't.

For example you can read news papers without ads :-) at the Sunnyvale library, the Wall Street Journal, the NY Times, the Washington Post, Economist, Etc. And many periodicals. All without sacrificing your privacy or trying to subvert some paywall.

You can read texts on pretty much any subject that were not only written by someone who took time to write it, but were edited and often fact checked by a third party (publisher).

You can read classic stories, and new stories, in all sorts of genres.

You can socialize at the library, ours has a couple of meeting rooms you can reserve as long as you aren't trying to sell something. Some libraries have a coffee shop in them which is pretty cool.

Oh, and you can surf the web if you want but there isn't anything on the Internet that you can't get at the library and the quality of the interaction at the library is always better.

My library even offers a media streaming service that you can use to check out movies and shows to watch at home!

You can check out eBooks too. All offered with no ad-tech nonsense.

> you can read news papers without ads

Don't all those papers have ads in them?

I’m hardly a heavy/regular library user but between picking up discount passes, picking up a video now and then, donating books, using a library to work in when I’m in a city, and even doing research, I’m in a library a good dozen times a year. For most people, that actually would be frequent movie theater going by count.

ADDED: And furthermore, as other comments have observed, most of library visits are dropping in for maybe 5 minutes. If I were only to count the times I spend multiple hours in the library, it would probably be a couple times a year--and that's mostly because a few city libraries are often convenient places to hangout with free WiFi when I have some time between appointments/activities.

Not to mention picking up groceries once a week.

Not just are libraries free, but going once often begets going again i.e. if you take out a book, you have to return it.

I know there are other uses for a library, and I wonder the percentage of trips to the library to take out books vs. other reasons.

If someone had asked me about the number of times I have gone to the library, I would actually have a hard time being able to answer that well.

First of all I don’t have a great memory of specific things in my day to day life. Ask me today what I had for dinner two days ago I could venture a guess based on what I usually have for dinner, but I couldn’t give you an answer with great confidence.

Anyway, part of what makes it kind of hard to define how much I have been to the library is also because I sometimes pass through the library at the university.

And I have borrowed like one book recently, but I don’t remember if that was within the last year or not.

But actually what I was wanting to say was that, different people might count what constitutes a visit to the library differently. To me, simply passing by to drop off a book does not constitute a visit. Whereas going there to borrow a book counts. And going there to attend some sort of event counts. And going there to browse the shelves for a while counts. And going there to just sit down and work with some of my own stuff on my computer counts.

It was probably something like

Daily More than once a week More than once a month About once every two months Once a year Never

Which is a lot easier to estimate and answer for most people.

For instance my mom would probably just pick the twice a month or weekly answer even though sometimes she’s traveling and wouldn’t be there for a week.

Everything you borrow is attached to your card. Everything is self reported.

True, but not every visit is for checking out or returning material. In fact, there was a technical meetup event at my local library yesterday.

If i go its to use the internet.

Ok, we've edited the title to use that phrasing. Thanks!

We've also switched to that URL from https://lithub.com/in-2019-more-americans-went-to-the-librar....

On top of that movie theaters attendance (in number of tickets sold and also their value as far as I can remember) has been going down for several years, so there's a lot to say about the progressive decline of movie-going (in relative terms) than libraries as a whole...

Not only in America. But I have also to say that the price of a ticker for the cinema is increasing over the years. Before the Euro, a ticket would cost the equivalent of 5 Euro. After 2002, until today, the average ticket price is of 9 Euro and for some shows can also reach 17-20 (!!!), Depending if the film is 3D/IMax/displayed on a 8mm/is weekend.

The Euro is kinda irrelevant to your argument. It would have been the same in your legacy currency.

but a 300% increase in prices are really bad

I go to the library to borrow movies :-)

I suspected it would be 'frequent visitors' to the library that influenced the results.

I really, really wish attendance at the library was higher than at the theatre. But it's just not what I see happening.

Frequent visitors applies to each dataset. There are a certain % of people who go to every big movie opening. Kids are over represented in both groups. There are too many agents of change that could affect either dataset to draw a conclusion.

The bigger question is why are people not going to the movies anymore. A few years ago the numbers wouldn't be as close. There is a trend to go out to a movie less and stream more.

I don't go to the movies as often.

For me, it's a combination of alternatives for free time, higher ticket prices, and disgust at the loud-mouthed arrogance of some of the performers. I will actually not go see a movie I might have otherwise seen if the actor speaks down about others who hold opposing ideas about politics or religion.

The data linked in comments actually shows that far fewer people visited the library than the movies. So the initial title was the opposite of reality.

Libraries are not free, just subsidized. Someone pays for them, and they're not cheap. Also, they rely heavily on contributions and donations.

Just saying.

(council person)

The original poster means: given that you have paid all your taxes, etc, the marginal cost for you of going to the library and taking out a book is 0.

Of course the infrastructure costs money to maintain, and the people working there are paid.

The phrase "free at the point of service" is sometimes used to describe this

Whenever someone says X is free, they usually mean: X has already been paid for via other means (taxes) and doesn’t have a usage fee. E.g. free beer doesn’t just come out of the ground (and if it did, you would still need to spend resources on extracting it).

There were more visits to libraries than movie theaters.

Love it. Where would one be more likely to learn to understand the difference, at a library or at a movie?

Depends if you're sleeping or not

>which is not very surprising given that only one of them is free.

It mentions this in the write up.

That said, most of the people I know have been to far more movies than they've been to the library (which is exactly 0 times). I know people who have never been to the library in their adult life. The library is an underutilized resource.

How many kids with school projects do you hang out with? How many seniors without a computer do you know?

This isn't a study in how many people you know.

I know no one who goes to movies or libruaries but this study didn't capture that.

Movie going is something that has been on the steady decline for years. The reality is, people aren't replacing movie watching with reading, they are just watching movies in a more private setting. Media consumption is at unprecedented levels today so it's still dominating our focused time.

That said, it's wonderful that libraries are still relevant and that many people still find them incredibly useful. The act of going to a library is what's so amazing... you are actively leaving the comfort of your home and leaving all of the distractions to visit a place that transitions your focus to learning. Building that habit/ritual for young people is so important because it will build a foundation for a love of learning.

Our library (Eldersburg branch in carroll county MD) is vibrant!

I work from it M-F to get out of the tiny apartment and away from the kids. The library runs "story times" a couple times a week for the kids. There is a small kid play area that we frequent during winter or rain when we want to kill an hour.

The coolest part is that there is a STEM center with robot, 3d printing, Legos & Julia/Scratch machines. I also work from the "teen" section (because it allows for talking and I have zoom meetings all day) which has: comics, xbox one, and study rooms available.

There are always people tutoring out of the rooms and kids hanging out gaming with switch/xbox fortnite. It's really cool.

That sounds incredible! I wish we had something like that here.

That doesn't mean Americans watched less movies (maybe even the opposite given Netflix) or that Americans went to the library in 2019 more than they did in 2018. Going to the movies is probably a dying activity, comparing it to going to the library is useless (or even worse: misleading), in that it pushes people to think Americans are reading more by going less to the movies.

Can google for "statista Number of movie tickets sold in the U.S. and Canada from 1980 to 2018" and you'll find a graph showing movie ticket sales smoothly grew and peaked around the turn of the century and have declined about 20% since the turn of the century.

Revenue is an entirely different graph, where revenue increased in an exponential curve in the 90s, but around the turn of the century has gone to a very slow linear increase, also about 20% since the turn of the century.

Note that US population went up about 15%, I would assume entirely due to immigration, from 282M to 327M.

Annual average CPI from bls.gov shows 172 in 2000 and 255 in 2019, so figure somewhat above 33% inflation since 2000.

So, since the turn of the century, sale quantities are falling about 40% behind population based estimates, whereas revenue is increasing slightly faster than population but vastly slower than inflation.

It would seem casuals and the general public are no longer going to the movies, its the kind of thing you see in extracting maximum revenue from superfans type of thing. Trying and failing to keep up with inflation by appealing more so to an ever shrinking audience of the most motivated fans.

This would fit in with anecdotal "common sense" reports of the product being very formulaic and ever more narrowly targeted.

In the end, markets with shrinking mindshare and shrinking revenue relative to inflation, are usually doomed. Either things will get shaken up and all the trend lines will change or the entrenched legacy players will eventually financialize themselves out of business sooner or later.

I went to the library a couple times in the last few weeks, different locations, and both had quite a few people in them. I haven't been to a movie theater in quite some time.

I think part of what is going on here, is that the real movie junkies are watching movies at home, whereas the real book junkies still go to the library. So, both figures may be influenced by the most-frequent users, but in different directions.

Real movie junkies probably also go to library to borrow bluerays.

I'm not sure about that, with things like Kindle and Kindle unlimited, book junkies have a Netflix equivalent.

I read a lot but switched to ebooks almost entirely 2 years ago

Ebooks can be quite expensive or very inconvenient.

Reading a book a week from a major publisher usually costs more than a month from a digital streaming service. Borrowing books requires some planning ahead since much of what's worth reading has a wait list, assuming that it is even available to libraries. Contrast that to print titles. You may be stuck placing something on hold if you are looking for a particular title, but there is usually something worth reading available.

Mh, I hardly read books just as they come out - there's plenty to read and there's kindle deals all the time. So I often end up paying between 1-5 dollars per book.

So that's somewhere between 4-20 dollars a month, and netflix spotify/netflix both are about 15 dollars. So some months my kindle will come out cheaper, sometimes more expensive.

But yeah, sometimes they are as expensive as print-book. Which is silly imo.

There has been, since about 2012, an almost complete lack of increase in the market share of eBooks compared to print books. eBooks appear to have peaked at around 20%, and might even be poised to decline as audiobooks gain ground. https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/12/23/20991659/ebook-amazon...

Also, libraries are used for a lot of things other than checking out books. Austin's library has boardgames available (I see people playing them there), and a lot of music and movie media.

I think the insane price of ebooks is to blame for this. I've recently purchased print books for this reason -- the ebook was actually more expensive.

I've been getting ebooks from my library for at least three years. Your library probably uses the Libby app (from Overdrive) which makes searching and checking out ebooks and audiobooks a snap.

I'm a cheapo, so I'm always looking for ebook deals. Waiting a couple months to buy a new expensive book I'm interested in (for free) is not a problem for me.

I've been unpleasantly disappointed by the Overdrive app. It seems like nothing I want is available through it, or the tie-ins to the libraries are convoluted and difficult to navigate. My experience has been that it's great if you want classics or fiction (I think I borrowed "Old Yeller"), but for books like you'd read about on HN, I've struck out.

You are correct. The Overdrive app is garbage.

It's successor is the Libby app. It's fantastic. If you're not using the Libby app, you are missing out.

I go to the library almost every week and it’s almost never to borrow books.

I go there to work or to read (sometimes on my kindle) because of how quiet it is.

Lucky you. My library seems to double as a day-care facility. The local coffeeshops are quieter.

The usefulness of the number depends on your perspective (some would say agenda)

If you want to build a library and some official tells you the place would be better used for a movie theater, you have a reference number to argue.

Some people are positing with a straight face that libraries are a thing of the past and the ROI is low now that we have amazon. Explaining libraries are useful is actually not trivial, especially as they don’t directly make money.

Slightly off topic, but equating library with “reading” is not in line with today’s libraries, which represent a lot more than a place to borrow old books.

I don't know if Americans are going to the library more, or shunning movie theaters because of price increases and Hollywood's creative bankruptcy and a lack of decent films.

I stopped going to the movie theater because the movie going experience has become garbage.

They upgraded the sound system of every movie theater near me without also upgrading the sound proofing. Now you can't watch a movie without hearing the music and the sound effects of every other movie around you.

Ushers stopped enforcing rules so texting and talking has become normalized. And a lot of people don't go to the movies to watch movies but to hang out with their friends.

Some theaters "upgraded" to narrow seats to fit more people. You now sit shoulder to shoulder and fight over who gets the arm rest.

I don't expect the situation to get better for two reasons:

1. A local movie theater company has a total monopoly so they don't have any competition and thus no need to improve.

2. Teens are the largest movie going demographic and this new normal is to them, normal.

The theater my wife and I usually go to is one of the Alamo Drafthouse theaters and they don't allow under-18s in unless they are accompanied by an adult. That helps a lot.

In theory Alamo is strict about talking and use of phone but in reality, quite a bit of it happens anyway. Still, audiences are a bit better behaved and I think it's because they are a bit older.

Wow, this is really surprising to hear because literally the opposite happened around here, the experience has drastically improved in the last ~7 years. Now multiple theaters have been converted to "luxury"-style theaters with huge reclining seats, giant aisles, and dedicated arm rests with a swiveling side table.

We have those too.

You get to enjoy the same noises and distractions while drinking wine and reclining on a bigger seat.

Choose your adventure:

- people using their phones during the movie

- people talking during the movie

- $15-20 for popcorn and soda

- droll hollywood plots

- seats too far in the back (unless you can book seats, and did so early enough)

- driving 20-40 minutes to a nice theater and parking

- can't bring in alcohol (unless your local theather allows it) - no pausing/rewinding

- dwindling sales means higher ticket and concessions prices, which makes less people go, and repeat

Yeah it's really a shocker that people want to watch movies at home. My home setup is really nice, and, well, it's my home.

However our local theater is $10/ticket. So we've caught some showings for new films like Uncut Gems, or stuff like Studio Ghibli Fest that I actually wanted to see on the big screen.

Also at home I can watch old, cheesy Jackie Chan films from my collection with friends with some beers and laugh our heads off.

As per another post the price is increasing slower than inflation.

I found it impossible to get price data for museums and hard to get verifiable data for music concerts, although those are activities that seem to be explosively more expensive than inflation but are not showing attendance declines.

I'm old enough (gen-x) that when I was a kid, the expensive part of a day at the public museum was going out for ice cream afterwards, the tickets were pretty cheap in 1980 or similar. I considered taking my kids to the public museum over christmas break, but tickets for the whole family would be over $100, so rather than ice cream being more expensive than the museum, it would be cheaper to go to a cheaper chain steakhouse and skip the museum. To some extent I think the "public" museum locally gave up on the public and exist to send ever larger invoices to the local public school districts for field trips so that might be a local issue OR a long term shift in the business model. There's no point in a business and profit sense, in letting the general public in for $5 per head, if the school district doesn't mind getting invoiced $30 per kid for field trips.

Could also be the changes in consumer technology.

Back in the day, watching a move at home meant renting a VHS (or Beta if you chose your VCR poorly) at Blockbuster/Hollywood video/et al., (and after a new movie was released to VHS, it was frequently rented out for a couple of weeks and you had to wait), then plopping it into your VCR and viewing it on your 19" fuzzy CRT with built in speakers.

Now, you just rent/buy the movie you want from your couch, and watch it on your 65" 4K widescreen TV connected to a home theater system.

The movie theater experience, by contrast, hasn't really changed much since I was a kid (1980s) - oh wait, ticket and concession prices have gone way up.

IMO, if I can wait to watch a new movie until it's released on Amazon (and being 40, I'm much more patient than I used to be), I'd much rather do that.

The number of tickets sold is down a bit but it's still as high as it was in 1995. (It peaked in about 2001.) [1] I rarely go myself these days, partly for the reasons you say. But I think it's still a pretty popular and relatively inexpensive activity for younger people who aren't too poor.

[1] https://www.the-numbers.com/market/

I feel that most of the movies at the theater are made for 14 year olds.

I think they are made to please the least common denominator between a US audience, a European audience, and a Chinese audience. But the result is pretty much what you say.

I should add that the movies are made for 14 year old boys. I think parents are more hesitant to let their young teenage girls out alone.

The reason is that girls will still watch to movies made for boys but not vice versa. Also grown ups will still watch movies made for 14 year olds, but not vice versa. So making movies for 14 year olds will reach the largest demographics.

I can totally understand. I want to go to the movies but every time I look at the actual movies they are running it seems they are trying to scare customers away on purpose with bad repertoire.

Agreed. I find comic book movies boring, so that removes a lot of options. I did go to the movies for the first time in ~3+ years to see 1917. Great movie. But, even with a movie I liked, the theater tried to ruin the experience by showing ~30 minutes of ads/preview prior to the movie.

Most theaters have reserved seating now. If you show up "on time" you're gonna get ads and previews. Go 20 minutes late; if you're early, walk out and chat or go to the little arcade they always have b

Oh really? That'd be awesome, when I moved to Germany a few years back where reserved seats are more standard it was such a big improvement for the experience.

I stopped showing up on time a few years back for the same reason. 30mins delay (ads 80%, trailers 20%). I find it insulting. When I was growing up I remember watching a couple trailers and that was that. A small scale captive audience experience. The other super annoying thing is that I consume all my poocorn before the movie even began.

I guess I'm one of those frequent visitors to the library, and as strange as it might seem I don't believe I have been to see a movie at the theater in more than 10 years.

Regardless of article’s accuracy in results, this trend I did not see coming 10 years ago.

Given the popularity of ebooks and internet, I thought libraries will slowly go down. This is fantastic!

I would guess that low-income families go to the library to use the computers or wifi.

Possibly even for IT classes - especially the older generations

Doubt people really go to library just for wifi. Everyone has smartphones now!

This just more of a case of the decline of movies and rise of streaming

That's not something you can hide behind a "just". As streaming becomes the main source of funding for films that represents a huge change to the Hollywood and indie cinema landscape, and it'll have an impact on much more than just the film industry (end of DVD retail, massive impact on multi-entertainment venues like malls that have an attached cinema, impact on branding as there are far more streaming film and shows dilutes the pool of celebrities to endorse things, less likely to see merchandise tie-ins due to that dilution... etc).

I wonder how much outliers like college students scew the data. I practically live at the library.

There's an age breakout here:


I'm still surprised at the results. I'm in the 30-49 bracket, as is everyone I interact with, and I'd be shocked if someone I knew has been to the library in the past year. They would most likely use the internet for information.

Wild. I'm in the same bracket, and I'd say half of my friends and co-workers in the bracket are library people. It's not a matter of going to the library for information that is really available for free on the internet. I'm there for the free books. If you read 40 books a year and are patient enough to ensure the sometimes months-long waitlists for new and popular books, using your local library could easily save you ~$400 per year.

I don't think there's many people who go to libraries just for "information."

Libraries are a great place to just chill if you just wanna get out of the house and the weather isn't great for parks. It's free, you can stay as long as you want, there's comfortable seating and plenty of reading material (or you can bring your own books, work, or projects), and friendly staff.

There's also workshops, events, meetups, etc.

Maybe I'm an outlier being in that age bracket and having young kids. But I am shocked that none of those 30-49 year olds don't have kids that are being escorted to the library to pick out new ones and returning/repeating every two weeks. One adult and two kids ~25x=75 person trips. Finding the equivalent number of movies that everyone would want to see and sit through is unfathomable to me.

It's weird to see going to the library referred to as a social activity. While in many cases it may be a social activity that involves a stay, in most of the cases I observe, it's brief and transactional, akin to visiting a convenience store or a short-duration service provider (like a car wash).

I went to the library about eight times last year, and in every case I was there solely to use their printer or fax machine (because if you don't work in an office, this is about the only place to access these things; certainly the cheapest). While there, most of the people I observed were either doing the same thing, or were stopping in to briefly browse and check out books or media. These aren't "social activities" unless buying a pack of gum at the corner store is a social activity. A haircut is far more social for me, and I had more of them last year.

My mother takes her great-granddaughter to the library a couple times a month, for various fantastic events the library puts together, which are highly social. They're well-attended, so I have no doubt that there are a decent number of people who do legitimately socialize there, but I wouldn't count most library visits as social events.

I think it depends. In the libraries closest to me, any events are squirreled away in conference rooms and other areas that wouldn't disturb people who are in the same building to study, read, or use the facilities available. It makes sense that you'd never encounter a social group if you only go to a library to access a part of the library that would've been separated out.

The libraries near me are much smaller. Obviously my anecdotal observations are a limited data set. Also, I just realized the article says "cultural activity" rather than "social activity", which changes things a bit, but my anecdote still stands insofar as I'm not really sure that much of the use I see counts for that either.

Libraries are great. I'm just not sure we should be patting ourselves on the back based on the usage I observe.

The ever-powerful pause button is what keeps me from going to move theaters; for many years now. (Also the ridiculous pricing of theaters nowadays, even though i support paying artists for their craft and work.)

Stepping back a bit...A few years ago - after we cut the cord on our (stupidly/unnecessarily expensive) cable tv subscription, but before there were several, decent streaming service offerings - my family and i would borrow DVDs from our local library (including an odd book here or there). It was wonderful! Sure, sometimes a desired movie would be out/booked by someone else for weeks...But there were always other options, plenty of films to see from classics to more recent stuff. Also, it felt nice to support our local library. After a few years of this of course - when more streaming services beyond only netflix became more prevalent - we stopped leveraging our local library. The content of these streaming services became compelling enough, and - provided that you don't over do it with too many services at once - their pricing has been decent enough. So, for me whether it is borrowing media from our library or subscribing to some decent streaming service, it is the fact that i can enjoy all this content from the comfort of my own home AND pause it (for me to take a food break, bathroom break, etc.) however/whenever i wish is what keeps me away from move theaters. (Also, the cost has a little impact...but by far and away, it is the pause button that drives my behavior.)

In this day and age, I'm wondering if i should cancel 1 or 2 streaming services, and go back to supporting our local library...even if only to help prop up a decent institution for our society?

That makes me happy. I live in a small town (Sedona Arizona) but we have a fantastic library, probably because we have several billionaires living in the area so there is money for libraries, medical facilities, etc. that is unusual for a small town.

I wonder how peoples’ perception on the state of the economy affects the library vs. going to the movies decision. For many people in my social circle they are doing better than ever financially and for some, worry about high inflation (currently well over 6%, ignoring the big lie also known as CPI) and reduced social security and Medicare benefits in the future.

Libraries are wonderful places to hang out and they are usually free.

No need to go to the movies when most libraries have a media room with a fat plaque on the wall stating the contract they have with pretty much EVERY movie company, allowing them to screen films to the public.

Why pay when I can watch for free at the library?

Now if only we’d fund libraries that way.

I pay about 700$ per year in property taxes to my library. Thats much more than what I pay for movies including netflix per year.

You pay $700/yr in property tax total? Or $700/yr to the library specifically? If the latter, what’s your total property tax? And where do you find info about what amount of it goes to the library?

Now that I have children, the library is a regular weekly stop.

We've only been to one or two movies in the past year. There's enough on Prime, Netflix, and Disney+ to be honest.

What's the criterion to be included in this list? They compare visiting the library to live music, theater, casinos, theme parks or zoos. But all of the other activities demand payment per visit, while going to a library is free, so it's a bit unfair comparison.

I would also compare it to cafes and restaurants, those are also cultural activities. I suspect that then libraries would fall behind.

Going to a restaurant is a cultural activity???

That depends on which restaurant you go to. ;)

I often see a cute nerd typing magic code on his macbook dreaming of a billion dollar SaaS business in Starbucks.

Nowadays? Definitely. People don't go to eat out "just not to be hungry", they go for the experience.


Honestly this is such a weird growing expectation. I don't think it's what people want anymore (they did previously) but companies are riling this up, they are making people expect more and care about trivial things to justify their existence and increased pricing. There's simply no single day I don't get by without seeing, care about the experience, it's all about the experience, it's all about how your literal USB cable makes someone feel about themself, etc in startup eco chambers.


I’d say so, yes. Food is art and art is culture

I don’t think there’s a rule that says good must always be art. A Philly cheesesteak sandwich isn’t art, at least the ones I’ve seen.

I go to the library far more frequently than the movie theater. There's just something magical about libraries for me. So much collected knowledge and creativity, yet unexplored. The smell of old books and the general atmosphere seem to prime me for reading. The fact that I my wife and N kids tag along probably helps the attendance numbers.

It’s a nice place to do remote work on

I am from the UK. But the last movie I watched in the Cinema was in 2014. It is expensive and unnecessary. I bought in the new year a 60inch 4k HDR TV for less than £400 from toshiba.

Why would you bother when you can get a similar experience at home without the hassle?

Odd that, although they mention it's an update to a 2001 survey, they don't link to that 2001 survey to compare. Were libraries going up since 2001, or were movie theaters going down, or both? Google is not wanting to show it to me, either.

Maybe dead malls should be turned into libraries. Really Big libraries.

Unfortunately, locally its a stereotype that they turn every dead mall's anchor store into a movie theater.

Also, locally, most dead malls die when they can no longer afford to maintain the roof, and water is pouring out of the ceiling everywhere until the occupancy permit gets yanked and leases are broken, and flooding is exactly what you don't want for books.

> Unfortunately, locally its a stereotype that they turn every dead mall's anchor store into a movie theater.

That happened at our local mall back in 2007. It's a bit of a triumph that the mall is still around. The Target on the end is worth more than the rest of the mall combined, I understand (Target owns that space rather than leasing it.)

They might have gone to the library, but it probably wasn't for books. My local library has a bigger selection of movies (and television shows) than the last time I went to Blockbuster.

Lots of people doubting the stats here. And while I generally approve the inquisitive nature of HN we maybe should take this time to be optimistic.

Good for Americans for breaking stereotypes. Congrats!

I go to library almost every day - it's free office space essentially when you're running a startup, with WiFi and printing.

I can't say the same about movies.

Seems like apples to oranges essentially.

The downside is you need to pack up and lose your spot if you need the toilet

I wonder if people actually opted to a library instead of movie. If so, I wonder what would be the number of people who opted to a library instead of TV/Netflix?

I'm curious if this is actually conflating homeless people who spend time in the library as one of their only safe places, rather than actual library patrons.

It is not. The original article has a breakdown based on income, which shows similar trends for every income bracket: https://news.gallup.com/poll/284009/library-visits-outpaced-...

But in any case, the conclusion in the title of the article is wrong and not supported by the results.

Sorry hadn't seen your comment when I posted. I agree the title of the OP's article is misleading.

Looking at the income breakdown at the Gallop link that throwawaylolx posted, it may well be an influence, although conflate seems a bit stronger than I'd put it.

More an effect of income inequality. Plenty of homeless in the high income inequality downtown library, but there's more people visiting in the higher income equality suburbs which swamp that first effect out when averaged nationwide.

Might be related to the rise of Netflix and binge watching, though. Movie-goers go down, the library/movie ration goes up. All is well.

...or go watch movies on netflix at the library!

Are the results segmenting for penniless students who went to the library to study out of "obligation" rather than leisure?

I’d read more into the libraries are more popular than the popular opinion would think rather than knocking the movies.

Not going to lie, I definitely pirated a movie or two at the library.

Should we conclude about libraries or about hollywood output ?

they are not reading books in the library, they are working on computers or even streaming movies. I am in a library all the time, so this is what I observe.

Yes, because Netflix.

Dirty loud theater, were the screen is too dark because they want to save the life of the bulb vs. being able to start a couple of movies if one is bad.

> Women Visit Libraries Nearly Twice as Frequently as Men

Doesn't surprise me. It is pretty hard to "cat call" someone at a library with the whole silence thing.

how many went to use library broadband to watch videos and movies? that's what i see all the time.

in my times, we used to go to the library to read books, wonder if that is still the attraction

More Americans who answer surveys went to the library than to the movies.

"Please don't post shallow dismissals, especially of other people's work. A good critical comment teaches us something."


Fair enough. I was mostly just annoyed at the title, I'll make sure to keep this in mind and bite my tongue if I don't have anything of value to add. :-)

I have never filled any surveys that weren't from people I had known. But I feel like I should, as that may make the world more suitable for me. Everyone will believe that I am most people.

I’d say: “Claimed they went to the library”.

Unless you have some evidence that the sample is biased, how about not blindly dismissing the data?

I bet you say, "correlation isn't causation" every time someone posts a scientific paper, too. As if no smart person has ever thought of these issues.

It's an outrageous click bait title loosely based on the results a single survey. It deserves to be dismissed.

"Self-reported" deserves more emphasis for sure, but the results seem legit:

> Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 2-15, 2019, with a random sample of 1,025 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting. > > Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

The fact that the title is click bait has nothing to do with your claim that the survey sample is biased. If it's true, prove it.

>results a single survey

Says the guy who uses "Ask HN" for help...

How many surveys should they do?

Would you please stop posting in the flamewar style, and in particular please drop the personal swipes from your comments here? You've been doing that repeatedly, it's against the rules, and we eventually ban accounts that keep doing it.


It isn't flamebait and the dude shouldn't be downvoted--I'd be pissed if I was that guy too.

People here love to say worthless crap like "oh, of the people who take surveys, blah blah blah". Not considering the fact that people who give the surveys aren't stupid and factor that into their results. Such garbage is pure pedantry and if anything, you should be going after all the know-it-alls on this forum who love to pick useless fights.

Of course the people giving the survey know that there is an inherent bias towards their sample. If they are any good, they correct for it.

Stop wasting your time going after this guy, go after the know-it-all parent.

I think that's a fair point and have posted https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22161665.

The issue with the account I was replying to is not that specific comment but a pattern of posting in the flamewar style and, especially, of taking personal swipes. That needs to change. For example, "Says the guy who uses "Ask HN" for help" is not an ok way to argue on HN. Personal attacks are a more existential issue for HN than shallow dismissals are, but the latter are also a big problem, which is why there's a site guideline against those too.

> Says the guy who uses "Ask HN" for help...

Are you under the impression that anyone is using "Ask HN" to make representative claims about a larger population than "people who answered this thread" (or at best, "people on HN")?

if you have kids, its an awesome place to go

Even more watched porn on the internet.

You have to pay to watch movies at the movie theater. The movies you rent from the library are free. And if your library is part of a network of libraries, then you probably could find any movie you want to watch.

Mix that with youtube, netflix, prime, etc, and you really have little incentive and time to go to the theater.

Url changed from https://lithub.com/in-2019-more-americans-went-to-the-librar..., which points to this.

...went to the library, to check out a movie?

Thanks for sharing!

How many went to watch porn on library computers


People took what I said as a joke but they should talk to some librarians and tech support of public libraries.

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