Freckle Project April 2023 Survey Webinar "Where Did You Get That Book"

The EveryLibrary Institute hosts a discussion with Tim Coates on the latest Freckle Report consumer survey results revealing growth in library visits and changing reading habits across formats. 

This discussion with Tim Coates, the originator of a groundbreaking consumer survey, "Freckle Project," marked the release of the sixth survey results, which were collected in April and May 2023. The survey asks a key question of American readers: "Where Did You Get That Book?" Consistent with previous polls, the survey found that three-quarters of public library use is for reading, borrowing books, and private study. Children and teenagers far prefer to read books in printed form and are the group that uses libraries most. 

The findings shed light on several key issues with the evolving landscape of library usage and readership trends. Notably, the survey results demonstrated a significant increase in library visits, with April 2023 reporting a 70% rise compared to September 2022. This spike in attendance can be attributed to the end of the lockdown measures that previously limited public access.

One interesting insight from the survey is the shifting nature of reading preferences in the United States. It found that half of all reading now consists of print material, while the other half encompasses downloaded eBooks and audiobooks. Public libraries, which account for approximately one-quarter of all reading in the country, have seen a parallel increase in both print and digital formats. Their usage grew substantially during the pandemic, and they have successfully maintained this heightened level of engagement.

Drawing on these findings, Tim Coates emphasized the importance of libraries measuring their own performance against these national trends. He offered three key recommendations to libraries aiming to enhance their impact on communities:

  1. Focus strongly on the presentation of print collections to increase the utilization of public library buildings. Recognizing the enduring appeal of physical books, libraries should prioritize curating and showcasing their print holdings to attract and engage patrons.

  2. Seek to expand and diversify the range of titles available, both in print and digital formats. This includes the restoration of reference sections and catering to the needs of various ethnic groups. By ensuring a rich and inclusive collection, libraries can better serve their diverse communities.

  3. Encourage closer collaboration between libraries and publishers to find common ground in promoting reading and literacy. Tim Coates urged libraries to actively seek partnerships with publishers to jointly pursue initiatives that foster a love for reading and connect books with readers.

These findings serve as a call to action for libraries nationwide to adapt, evolve, and continue to be indispensable resources for their communities.