New Report on Per Capita Spending for Libraries, Police, and Education

The EveryLibrary Institute, a non-profit public policy organization for libraries, has released a new report entitled "Funding Our Priorities: Comparisons of Public Library Funding and Services with Other Sectors in Post-COVID America."  The report examines the current state of library funding in the US, analyzes trends and patterns in library funding, and provides recommendations for policymakers, library leaders, and advocates to ensure sustainable funding for libraries and information services.

Authors A.J. Million and Jenny Bossaller analyze the spending priorities of state, local, and federal governments on public services, classifying them as core and discretionary, and discuss the negotiation that libraries must undergo to justify their investment. One area in which this negotiation occurs is policing and public safety, which raises questions about the impact of funding priorities on community services. The report compares the investment in libraries and policing and provides a table that shows per capita expenditures on library and police services. The analysis reveals that state and local governments invest significantly more resources in public safety and policing than libraries, with a per capita number of law enforcement employees that is much higher than library staff. 

"’Funding Our Priorities’ is a comprehensive and insightful report on municipal and state revenue and expenditure priorities through a library lens," said John Chrastka, Executive Director of the EveryLibrary Institute. “It comes at a critical time when federal COVID relief funds are beginning to sunset, and traditional pressures on state and local budgets will return. We hope this report will serve as a valuable resource for library advocates, policymakers, and stakeholders committed to ensuring that libraries continue to serve their communities effectively."

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The report also highlights that public library requirements to provide specific library services (or access to other services) ultimately depend on their ability to hire and retain a skilled workforce and consistent investment. The report reveals that the per-capita number of library staff has shrunk in the past decade while the population grew. Explanations for this trend include retirements, hiring freezes, automation, and decreased library staff spending, while library employee compensation is lower than many public-sector peers. Data from the past decade also calls into question if increased funding is sufficient for libraries to meet their staffing and service needs. 

Please download this report on the EveryLibrary Institute website at