PLA: Public Libraries Respond to COVID-19: Survey of Response & Activities

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Public Library Association (PLA) surveyed the public library community to understand the immediate impacts the crisis is having on their operations, staffing, programs and services. Over 2,500 unique library systems responded to the survey, representing a nearly 30% response rate.


  • While most libraries (98%) reported building closures to some extent, a substantial majority of respondents reported that, in response to COVID-19, they have continued, expanded, or added services such as:
    • online renewal policies (76%)
    • online services like e-books and streaming media (74%) and,
    • virtual programming (61%).
  • Library staff are also taking other innovative steps to adapt and respond to community needs, including:
    • Providing non-COVID online resources (activities to do at home, unemployment resources, etc.): 21%
    • Expanding access to services (e-cards, deaf/blind/disabled expanded options, fine forgiveness, upping checkout limits, providing online assistance, setting up a helpline, etc.) : 21%
    • Materials distribution (free supplies, kits, bookmobile deliveries, mailing items): 17%
    • Providing resources related to COVID (online and physically posted): 17%
    • Technology (laptop and hotspot checkout, expanding wifi, print/scan/copy/fax services): 13%
    • Using makerspace equipment to create medical supplies: 12%
    • Virtual exhibits/programs: 10%
    • Reallocation of staff/resources (staff to other govt entities for support, allowing other entities to use meeting space, sending PPE to other depts.): 10%

For more information of the results, please view detailed findings and read the announcement press release.

Follow-up survey: PLA plans to continue its data collection efforts, building on what it has learned from this most recent survey to create and distribute a follow-up survey to public libraries. While this first survey captured the immediate response to communities, the results clearly showed that library responses are evolving daily and that library models will change to some extent because of COVID-19. As libraries start to re-open, PLA will re-query the field to understand what actions need to be taken to help communities recover.

Next Steps

  • PLA will host a webinar to discuss the findings on Wednesday, April 22 at 1:00 PM Central. Click for more information and to register for free.
  • PLA will continue to advance its advocacy and outreach work at the national level, communicating the value and essential role libraries play now and will continue to play as communities recover from the crisis.
  • Aggregated results will be made available on this webpage by the end of April.
  • PLA and its partners will continue to conduct more advanced analysis on the results to continue to better understand how library’s response to COVID-19 impact their communities. Updated work will continue to be shared on this webpage as it becomes available.
  • In addition to its own analysis, PLA will share aggregate results and findings with additional partners, including state library chapters, state data coordinators, and members of the Public Library Data Alliance.

About the Survey

The Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association, fielded the online survey March 24 through April 1. The online link was shared widely by PLA and other library organizations like the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, the Urban Libraries Council and the Association for Rural & Small Libraries. Subsequently research staff from PLA, the Colorado State Library’s Library Research Service and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, verified respondents were from U.S. libraries and removed duplicates. Survey responses represented 28% of U.S. public libraries. At least one public library in every state responded to the survey, and 43 states had 10% or more of their libraries represented.

Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) logo

Library Research Service (LRS) logo


Colorado Department of Education / Colorado State Library logo


Questions? Email Emily Plagman, Manager, Impact and Advocacy, at or call 312-380-1344.