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Getting off the topic of rentals again to mention a little noticed report on public library use across the country. The data is from 2002, but it’s reasonable to assume library use hasn’t changed dramatically since then and the report was released just this week by the National Center for Education Statistics. It’s interesting and relevant given the ongoing debate about whether San Diego needs a new central library.

The survey was conducted as part of the Census Bureau’s October 2002 Current Population Survey, which collects data from 50,000 to 60,000 households through personal and telephone interviews.

The report has plenty of tables to look through if you’re interested, but here are some of the basics:

48 percent of U.S. households used a public library in 2002 and they were more likely to do so (52 percent) when the library was less than a mile away.

Usage drops as the library moves farther away. For example, 41 percent of households 6n10 miles from a public library used one, and 34 percent used the library when it was more than 10 miles from their home.

Families with money and higher education are more likely to use the library. According to the survey, 61 percent of households with incomes in the top 20 percent used a public library in 2002 compared to 33 percent of households with incomes in the lowest 20 percent. Meanwhile, 66 percent of households where someone has an advanced degree used the public library compared to just 21 percent of households where the highest education level was less than a high school diploma.

And, interestingly, just 9 percent of households use the library to access a computer.

The survey also tracked library usage by state. In California 32 percent of households used the library in 2002. Utah has the highest usage level with 62 percent of families using the public library.

CATHERINE HOCKMUTH

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