Book Circulation Per U.S. Public Library User Since 1856

17 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2007

See all articles by Douglas A. Galbi

Douglas A. Galbi

Federal Communications Commission

Date Written: July 29, 2007


Library book circulation per user has no strong, long-run trend. From 1856 to 1978, library users borrowed from U.S. public libraries about 15 books per user per year. From 1978 to 2004, book circulation per user declined approximately 50%. The growth of audiovisuals circulation, estimated at 25% of total circulation in 2004, accounts for about half of this decline. These figures depend on estimates and disparate samples of libraries with varying circulation and user accounting methods. Nonetheless, these figures are of sufficient quality to suggest that historically established institutions significantly stabilize borrowing behavior.

Keywords: books, circulation, libraries, users, social networks

Suggested Citation

Galbi, Douglas, Book Circulation Per U.S. Public Library User Since 1856 (July 29, 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Douglas Galbi (Contact Author)

Federal Communications Commission ( email )

445 12th St. SW
Washington, DC 20554
United States
202-418-1556 (Phone)


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