The state of small and rural libraries in the US

From a study on the state of small and rural libraries, recently released (pdf) by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. 

  • Small libraries cover between 2,500 citizens up to 25,000. Many are in the upper range -- and mostly located in suburban areas -- but more than half of small libraries provide services to fewer than 10,000 residents. 
  • A rural library is located between five miles from an urbanized area to 25 miles away. 
  • In some rural states, small and/or urban can make up more than 3/4s of all public libraries. (Most states count at least 15 percent of their libraries as either small or rural.) 

My take: Library services can be much more diverse than those needed in urban libraries because people in rural areas have more diverse needs. Lack of access to good broadband service may be one. 

The other important takeaway is that these libraries are picking up slack where other services and agencies may be falling off, mostly due to economics. 

From the report: 

This increase in use of small and rural libraries may be due the fact that other services in rural communities are contracting as a result financial challenges. Small and rural libraries, which are present in so many communities, serve a strategic role in extending public services to residents that may be hard to reach by other means. Many small and rural libraries are accustomed to linking what might be considered traditional library services with a variety of other social, educational and economic development programs.