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

Circ staff: the most visible people at the library

It’s not hard to go in and out of the library without speaking with most of the library staff, but it is hard not to see any of them. I’d like to say that you’ll see a reference librarian, but some libraries have decided to do away with a regular reference desk. You’ll see reference librarians at those libraries, but not necessarily know who they are. Even if you don’t check anything out, you’ll recognize some library staff right away: the people who check out library materials. They still work behind a desk, probably very close to the door. The … Continue reading

Libraries vs the digital divide

Railroad tracks used to divide some communities into the right side and the wrong side. People on the wrong side of the tracks lacked both social standing and the resources to better themselves. The term “digital divide” similarly refers to those who have access to the Internet and those who don’t. Libraries, and especially public libraries, are at the forefront of attempts to bridge the digital divide. What is the digital divide? What constituted the digital divide changes over time. When the general public first began to acquire computers at home, poor people and minorities were less likely to have … Continue reading

Bookmobile: when the library comes to you

By the time even smaller cities had public libraries, patrons still had to live in town to use them. The idea of taking library materials to smaller towns and rural areas took form only in the twentieth century. Depending on which website is correct, the first bookmobile service in the US started either in Chester County, South Carolina or Washington County, Maryland. Washington County’s effort (from 1905) is better documented, but Chester County’s claims to have started in 1904. The idea caught on and spread first to neighboring counties and eventually throughout most of the country. Today, some kind of … Continue reading

Libraries support families

If you have ever dropped your kids at the library for story time, you know one way that libraries support families. If that’s all you know, you have hardly scratched the surface of what the library has to offer. The Children’s Reading Foundation has determined that pre-schoolers need hundreds of hours of being read to in order to be adequately prepared for kindergarten. Even parents with minimal or no reading skills can make up stories to go along with the pictures in books. Twenty minutes a day beginning in babyhood will easily add up to that much time. Unfortunately, not … Continue reading