73% of books in libraries never checked out?

A column by Harvey MacKay in my local newspaper (www.fresnobee.com) caught my attention today.  The title of the column was “Start new year with a new love of learning.”  In the column, he proposes a new year’s resolution “a steady diet of learning” and “You don’t go to school once for a lifetime; you are in school all of your life.”   Sounds good to me.  Towards the end of the article, he wrote:

“We live in a sad time when you consider the following statistics, which I found recently: 

  • Only 14% of adults with  a grade-school education read literature in 2002.
  • 51% of the American population never reads a book of more than 400 pages after they complete their formal education.
  • 73% of all books in libraries are never checked out.”

It was this last statistic that really caught my attention.  I had never read this statistic and was not able to find the source of this statistic.  I was able to find a report by the National Endowment of the Arts entitled “Reading at Risk:  A Survey of Literary Reading in America.”  (2004).  This report does talk about the reading habits of the 17,000 people they interviewed. 

However, I found nothing about the percentage of books checked out of libraries.  If this is a true statistic, then I wonder if indeed libraries are becoming obsolete in their current form.  I wonder if the same is true in school libraries?  academic libraries?  I did email Mr. Mackay to ask about the source of this statistic.

And, perhaps I missed the report that does show the ways people now use libraries?

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4 Responses to “73% of books in libraries never checked out?”


  1. 1 Tom Hoffman December 30, 2006 at 7:29 am

    Go into a library and look at, say, 500 random titles. It isn’t surprising that 73% of them are very rarely, if ever, checked out.

  2. 2 robdarrow December 30, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    Good point. So, I wonder if the same is true with school libraries. I’ll have to check with the librarians in my district. And, if they aren’t checked out, why were they purchased in the first place?

  3. 3 Singing Librarian December 31, 2006 at 3:13 pm

    In the library I work at, an academic library in the UK, we do find that some books are never taken out, but the statistic is nowhere near 73% for us. Almost all of our book purchasing is done at the request of the tutors for the courses taught here, so at least we have an excuse for the redundant books! I would have expected most libraries to be very selective about what they get in, as funding is never particularly high for any sector of the library world.

    David


  1. 1 Library collections adjust for 21st century users « California Dreamin’ by Rob Darrow Trackback on January 1, 2007 at 11:20 pm

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