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Well-trained public librarians play a crucial role in bringing the humanities to the American people. Librarians are involved in organizing cultural events, reaching out to students in local schools, and educating citizens of all ages in how to use the growing variety of information resources. An important measure of the vitality of the public dimension of the humanities is thus the quantity and quality of the librarians who serve the millions of people who visit the nation’s public libraries every year and rely on librarians to curate and provide access to an array of print and digital resources.

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* Per 100,000 population values were calculated using the unduplicated population of libraries' legal service areas. All values presented are for the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Calculations were performed on all surveyed libraries, including those that did not meet Institute of Museum and Library Services criteria for public libraries.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Public Libraries Survey (1995–2005); and Institute of Museum and Library Services, Public Libraries in the United States Survey (2006–2010).

The trend presented here is based on data points, published by Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the National Center for Education Statistics, that were calculated for all public libraries surveyed, not only those that met IMLS criteria. In 2010, IMLS began publishing information for only those entities that it considers public libraries. Since the 2010 findings were not comparable to values for earlier years, the Humanities Indicators (HI) staff recalculated the 2010 values for all surveyed libraries. The HI hopes in the near future to be able to present, for the years 1995 and forward, data points based on only those organizations that can be considered public libraries under the IMLS definition.

The “public librarians per 100,000 population” values included in this graph 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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* All values presented are for the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Calculations were performed on all surveyed libraries, including those that did not meet Institute of Museum and Library Services criteria for public libraries.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Public Libraries Survey (1995–2005); and Institute of Museum and Library Services, Public Libraries in the United States Survey (2006–2010).

The trend presented here is based on data points, published by Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the National Center for Education Statistics, that were calculated for all public libraries surveyed, not only those that met IMLS criteria. In 2010, IMLS began publishing information for only those entities that it considers public libraries. Since the 2010 findings were not comparable to values for earlier years, the Humanities Indicators (HI) staff recalculated the 2010 values for all surveyed libraries. The HI hopes in the near future to be able to present, for the years 1995 and forward, data points based on only those organizations that can be considered public libraries under the IMLS definition.

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