National Archive of Data on Arts and Culture

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Public Libraries in the United States Survey, 2013 (ICPSR 36471)

Principal Investigator(s): Institute of Museum and Library Services


The Public Libraries Survey (PLS) provides statistics on the status of public libraries in the United States. It is a voluntary survey conducted annually by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 survey is the 25th in the series.

The data files include all public libraries identified by state library administrative agencies in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the outlying areas of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The reporting unit for the survey is the administrative entity, defined as the agency that is legally established under local or state law to provide public library service to the population of a local jurisdiction.

For Fiscal Year 2013, IMLS collected the following information via a web-based survey for the PLS:

  • Library Data - Data on each public library, such as its name and address, population of legal service area, service outlets, collections, full-time-equivalent staff, and operating revenue and expenditures State characteristics data, including the reporting period starting and ending dates, the state total population estimate, and the total unduplicated population of legal service areas for the state. These data are contained in dataset 1 and include 9,309 records; 9,290 were public libraries and 19 were administrative entities that closed in or temporarily closed for FY 2012.
  • State Data - Each state library agency reported these data on the "State Characteristics" record because they are not library-level data. These data are in dataset 2 and include 56 records, one for each state and outlying area.
  • Outlet Data - Data on each public library service outlet, such as its name and address, type, county location, metropolitan status, square footage, public service hours per year, and number of weeks a library outlet is open. These data are in dataset 3 and include 17,554 total records, 17,463 are public library service outlets (central, branch, bookmobile, and books-by-mail-only outlets). The remaining 91 records are outlets that closed or temporarily closed for FY 2012.

This data collection is useful to researchers, journalists, the public, and policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels. These data are used by federal, state and local officials, professional associations, and local practitioners for planning, evaluation, and policy making.

Access Notes

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.


DS0:  Study-Level Files
DS1:  Public Library Data File, FY 2013 - Download All Files (265.0 MB) large file
SAS    SPSS    Stata    R    ASCII    Excel/TSV
ASCII + SAS Setup    SPSS Setup    Stata Setup    Other
Analyze Online:
DS2:  Public Library State Summary / State Characteristics Data File, FY 2013 - Download All Files (9.773 MB)
SAS    SPSS    Stata    R    ASCII    Excel/TSV
ASCII + SAS Setup    SPSS Setup    Stata Setup    Other
Analyze Online:
DS3:  Public Library Outlet Data File, FY 2013 - Download All Files (76.453 MB)
SAS    SPSS    Stata    R    ASCII    Excel/TSV
ASCII + SAS Setup    SPSS Setup    Stata Setup    Other
Analyze Online:

Study Description


Institute of Museum and Library Services. Public Libraries in the United States Survey, 2013. ICPSR36471-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2016-07-21.

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Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    databases, expenditures, federal government, libraries, literacy, local government, population size, programs, public libraries, revenue, state government, wages and salaries

Smallest Geographic Unit:    census block

Geographic Coverage:    American Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, United States, Virgin Islands of the United States

Time Period:   

  • 2013

Unit of Observation:    Public library, State, Public library service outlet

Data Type(s):    administrative records data, aggregate data

Data Collection Notes:

The data provided here were acquired from IMLS and include only the public-use versions of the data. IMLS has suppressed some data in these files, in order to protect privacy and to prevent disclosure of individual information. If users require access to this suppressed information, they should contact IMLS at about procedures for obtaining access to the restricted-use data files.

Users are encouraged to review all documentation prior to using these data. For information on changes made to these data by ICPSR, please see the ICPSR Codebook Notes in the codebooks provided.

Numeric fields may contain negative numbers, such as "-1". "-2", or "-3". These indicate that the value is "null" (or "blank"), and may mean that the data are missing, not applicable, or suppressed to protect confidentiality. See the Record Layouts in the User Guide for more information. Check for fields that contain negative numbers before using averages, sums, or other calculations or aggregations of data.

In this survey, the term public library means an administrative entity. The administrative entity may have a single outlet or multiple outlets (single- and multiple-outlet libraries that do not have a central outlet are listed in Appendix E of the User Guide). The data for a multiple-outlet library are combined.

For information on the collection data collection dates, see "Table A-2. Reporting periods of public libraries: Fiscal Year 2013" in the User Guide.

State data comparisons should be made with caution because of differences in reporting periods (see Table A-2 in the User Guide) and adherence to survey definitions. The definitions used by some states in collecting data from their public libraries may not be consistent with the PLS definitions.

Since the District of Columbia is not a state, special care should be used in comparing data for a city to state data. Caution should also be used in comparing Hawaii's data to other states as all public library data are reported under one entity, the Hawaii State Public Library System.

The data include imputations, at the unit and item levels, for non-responding libraries. For a discussion of the imputation methodology, see the Imputation section of the User Guide.


Study Purpose:    IMLS research for PLS is designed to provide consistent, reliable, complete, and accurate indicators of the status and trends in public library services; and to report timely, useful, and high-quality data to Congress, the states, other policymakers, practitioners, data users, and the general public.

Study Design:    The PLS is designed as a universe survey of the 9,290 public libraries located in the United States and its outlying areas. The data are collected via a web-based survey under the mandate of the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010 (PL 111-340) as stated in SEC. 210. The U.S. Census Bureau is the data collection agent for IMLS.

Sample:    The survey frame consists of 9,290 public libraries - 9,228 public libraries in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and 62 public libraries in the outlying areas of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands - as identified by state library agencies. The survey frame includes 140 public libraries that do not meet all the criteria in the FSCS Public Library Definition (see Appendix F, item 203 of the Administrative Entity definitions for the criteria in the User Guide). These libraries are included because they qualify as public libraries under state law. Military libraries that provide public library service and libraries that serve residents of institutions are not included.

Time Method:    Longitudinal

Weight:    Weights are not included in this study.

Mode of Data Collection:    web-based survey

Response Rates:    A total of 9,048 of the 9,290 public libraries in the survey frame responded to the FY 2013 PLS, for a unit response rate of 97.4 percent.

Extent of Processing:   ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created variable labels and/or value labels.
  • Standardized missing values.
  • Created online analysis version with question text.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Restrictions: Users of the data must agree to the Terms of Use presented on the NADAC Web site and available through the link in each codebook.


Original ICPSR Release:   2016-07-21

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