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Indicator V-10 Public Library Revenue, Expenditures, and Funding Sources
NOTE TO READERS: Please include the following reference when citing data from this page: "American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators,".
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Updated (5/24/2013) with data for 2006–2010.

See the
Note on Per Capita Library Statistics.

The growth in public library use over the 1995–2010 time period (see Indicator V-8, Use of Public Libraries) was accompanied by an increase in library revenue and expenditures. In 2010, per capita expenditures were approximately $36, 27% higher than 15 years earlier (Figure V-10a; all amounts are given in 2010 dollars). Growth in expenditures over this period occurred in two distinct phases separated by a plateau during the early-2000s. The year 2010 was the first year in which expenditures declined, with libraries’ per capita spending dropping 3%, a development corresponding with a somewhat more pronounced decline in library revenue.

Figure V-10a, Full Size
Supporting Data Supporting Data

Per capita library expenditures on staff, which made up approximately two-thirds of all expenditures during this time period, were 31% greater in 2010 than in 1995. As with total expenditures, 2010 was the first year to bring a decline in spending on staff. Expenditures on collections grew during the first part of the time period but then decreased, with the result that 2010’s expenditures on materials were 1.5% less than what was spent by libraries on their collections in 1995. Other expenditures, which include all spending other than that for staff and collections,1 increased by approximately 36% from 1995 to 2010.

Figure V-10b presents the amount spent per capita by each state (and the District of Columbia) on its public libraries in 2010. The range in expenditures was considerable. The District of Columbia, with the highest per capita amount, spent approximately $68. The lowest spender, Mississippi, had a per capita expenditure of less than $16.

Figure V-10b, Full Size

As Figure V-10c illustrates, public libraries received the vast majority of their revenue from local government. The local share began increasing in 2002, so that by the beginning of the next decade local funds represented 85% of all library revenues, up from 78% in 1995. Over the same time period, the share of funding garnered from state government decreased from 12% to 7%, while the share received from “other” sources (donations, fees, and grants) remained relatively constant. During the 1995–2010 period the federal government was the source of a small and declining proportion of library revenues (these values were too small to be included in the figure; for the federal percentage values, see Supporting Table V-10c). Federal funds came mostly in the form of Library Services and Technology Act grant monies distributed by state library agencies (for more about these agencies’ activities and funding levels, see Indicator IV-4, State Library Agencies).

Figure V-10c, Full Size
Supporting Data Supporting Data


1 Such expenditures include those for binding, supplies, repair or replacement of existing furnishings and equipment, and costs of computer hardware and software used to support library operations or to link to external networks, including the Internet; also includes expenditures for contracts for services, such as costs of operating and maintaining physical facilities, and fees paid to consultants, auditors, architects, attorneys, etc.

Note on Per Capita Library Statistics

All of the per capita statistics in this section of the Indicators are based on the total unduplicated population of libraries’ legal service areas. A library’s legal service area is the geographical area that by state or local statute a library is mandated to serve. “Unduplicated” refers to the fact that the population figures have been adjusted to compensate for overlapping service areas. To simply add the populations of all service areas would be to double count those people residing in areas served by more than one library.

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