New Pew Report Explores Role of Public Libraries in People's Lives

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project is exploring the role libraries play in people’s lives and in their communities. The research is underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The latest report was released yesterday, "How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities."

People believe that having a public library is important for the community. According to the research highlighted in this report, 94% of Americans say that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community. However, people are also unclear about what happens at the local library. Despite the fact that libraries are easily available to most, there are large numbers of Americans who say they are not sure about all the services libraries offer.

A majority of Americans think that that public libraries have “done a good job” keeping up with new technologies. The report includes a number of technology stats that highlight the groups for whom public access technology is or is not important. Using the internet, computers, or printers at a public library:

  • 42% of those who are currently looking for a job say this is “very important” to them and their families and 68% of job-seekers say it is either important or very important overall.
  • 43% of those living with a disability say this is “very important” (67% say it is important overall), as well as 48% of those with a health problem that makes reading difficult (69% say this is important to them and their families overall).
  • 56% of internet users without home access say this is “very important” to them and their family, and 77% say it is important overall. (p. 18-19)

Data collection is expensive and time consuming. It is wonderful to have a resource like the Pew Research Center's large-scale studies. What are the implications for this national level data at the local level? As you read the report, do the findings corroborate with what you are seeing and hearing locally? If you are not sure, are there questions you would like to ask your community to find out?

Source: Pew Research Center, December 2013, “How Americans value public libraries in their communities." /libraries - in - communities/