Major Events Longitudinal Study
In our 2021 Major Events Longitudinal Study (PDF), researchers from the University of Florida, Bureau of Economic and Business Research, examined and quantified the impact of major events on Florida’s public libraries for the last 20 years.
Libraries are an important resource for internet access, training programs, e-government services, educational materials, access to health information, assistance to unemployed individuals seeking employment and more.
These services and resources provide significant benefits to library patrons and their communities, particularly in times of natural disasters and economic downturns.
This report examines how major events, such as hurricanes, wildfires and economic downturns, are related to the use of public library services.
In particular, the study quantifies the impact of these major events on library visits, program offerings and attendance, reference transactions and use of electronic resources.
Libraries during natural disasters
During natural disasters, libraries participate actively in the recovery process by providing important services to their communities, including:
- Setting up daycare programs to fill in for schools closed due to hurricanes.
- Serving as emergency centers to coordinate relief efforts.
- Distributing food.
- Providing shelter and access to information and the internet.
- Library visits increase during natural disasters. In particular, during large wildfires, libraries see an increase of 9% in visits.
- The number of library programs increases as well, especially during hurricanes, with estimates showing increments ranging between 8% and 18%.
- This increase in library programs is closely matched by an increase in program attendance, particularly among adults.
- Public libraries also see a rise, particularly during hurricanes, between 15% and 18% in traditional reference transactions.
- The results indicate that library use remains relatively unchanged across the economic cycle.
This study provides empirical evidence that library use increases during natural disasters and highlights the vital role that Florida public libraries play in communities across the state, particularly in areas affected by natural disasters.