The American public and its libraries

The most recent Pew Research Center poll of library usage includes a fascinating statistic: 91% of respondents consider public libraries either very important or somewhat important to their community.  But only 76% consider it very important or somewhat important to themselves or their families! One non-library user expressed support for the services they provide to people less well off. That person had enough money to choose various alternatives. I doubt if that sentiment represents the entire 15% of Americans who consider libraries important for the community but not themselves. Who are library users? The poll only tracks people who are … Continue reading

Public libraries in American life

Last January I wrote about how Americans perceive libraries, based on a Pew research poll about library services. For one thing, Americans hold their public library in high esteem even when they don’t personally use it. It’s time for a closer look at that point. First, the numbers The Pew questionnaire begins with some very general questions about the respondents’ communities, their access to the Internet, and their book-reading habits. The first question directly related to libraries asks about the importance of public libraries, and explicitly excludes school or university libraries. Are libraries [very important / somewhat important / not … Continue reading

How the American public perceives and uses libraries

The Pew Research Center has lately issued a substantial report called Library Services in the Digital Age. I will explore this important research in depth for future posts, but for now I’ll just mention some things that immediately catch my eye. The importance of libraries According to the findings, 91% of Americans ages 16 and older consider libraries important community resources and 76% consider them important to themselves and their families. Oddly enough, only 84% have actually visited a library at some point in their lives, while only 59% have visited either a library, a bookmobile, or a public library … Continue reading