New Research on Public Library Usage During Pandemic

Proprietary research from Innovative shows how people in the U.S. are using public libraries during the pandemic

EMERYVILLE, Calif. October 27, 2020 – Innovative, a ProQuest company and leading global provider of library software, today announced the presentation of new research on how people in the U.S. are using their public libraries.

The research report, titled “Centuries of Resilience: Public Libraries Still Crucial During COVID-19,” presents how people have used public libraries in 2019 and 2020. The data includes how usage changed after most libraries closed their doors in March of this year and have since been slowly reopening.

The Innovative survey of over 1,000 U.S. adults reveals that while public libraries are still an extraordinarily trusted institution, the pandemic has presented immense challenges to staying connected with communities. Conducted by Witt Associates LLC in September of this year, survey findings include:

  • While libraries have done an admirable job pivoting resources online, not all patrons moved as quickly as their libraries have. As a result, while use of electronic resources is high, overall use of the library is down compared to 2019 and early 2020.
  • The investments libraries made in their website and mobile apps since 2016 have paid dividends, especially since the onset of the pandemic. Overall online use of the library has gone from 39% in 2016 to 55% in 2020.
  • While use of e-resources has gone up significantly during the pandemic, borrowing printed books is still the #1 library activity.
  • Despite significant online use of libraries and high use of e-resources, 53% of library users said that they sometimes cannot find what they want in the library.
  • In addition, only 1 in 5 people report that they are very familiar with what their local library offers, and the same number say they do not know how to find out more. 33% said “It is often hard to actually visit the library.”

“Every facet of our lives has been impacted by the pandemic. The library is another example of an institution, like schools, retail stores, and workplaces that have pivot to meet people where they are during this time,” said Kirsten Matetich, VP of Marketing and Business Development at Innovative. “Our research confirms many things we know to be true – that public libraries are beloved and widely supported by their communities. It also exposes gaps that we believe libraries can close with better technology. Engaging communities in a pandemic world will continue to require creativity and better technology to both serve people and to keep us all safe.”

To view the full research report, download your copy here.



Innovative, a ProQuest company, provides leading technology solutions and services that empower libraries and enrich their users worldwide. Innovative offers one of the most comprehensive portfolios of library automation products on the market today, serving academic, public, national, consortia, and corporate and special libraries. Headquartered in Emeryville, California, Innovative has a global presence—serving thousands of libraries in 66 countries and offices worldwide. For more information, visit