The digital era has brought with it challenges to institutions closely identified with the printed word and that have been charged with adding new technologies and services.
Check this out: Two-thirds of Americans are actively engaged with their public libraries, according to a new Pew Research Center study. At least half of these have these have used their library in the past year,
The public library has a marketing problem contends comedian Gary Gulman in one of his routines. Noting that chain bookstores boast they offer bestsellers for 40 percent off, the public library, he contends, have a better offer: Free books. “And no one’s in there,” he marvels.
The situation is not that bleak. In its nationally representative survey of 6,224 Americans at least 16 years-old, Pew finds that Americans’ connection—or lack of connection—with public libraries is a part of their broader information and social landscape. “People who have extensive economic, social, technological and cultural resources are also more likely to use and value libraries as part of those networks,” Pew finds. Those with the deepest connections with public libraries are often associated with key life moments such as being a student, seeking a job, becoming a parent and going through a situation in which research and data can influence that decision.
The digital era has brought with it challenges to institutions closely identified with the printed word and that have been charged with adding new technologies and services to their offerings. But belying the image of libraries as stuffy, outmoded relics, the Pew study finds that the most highly engaged library patrons are also big users of technology. The most tech-savvy of these, whom Pew dubs “Information Omnivores,” are not as reliant on libraries as the group most engaged with their public library (dubbed “Library Lovers”), but both groups, Pew finds, are “the most avid supporters of the idea that libraries make communities better.
A previous Pew study released last December found that nine-out-of ten Americans said that closing their local library would have an impact on their community, with almost two-thirds (63 percent) contending that impact would be “major.” .The new study finds that even people who have never visited a library (“Distant Admirers”) believe that they play an integral role in their community, particularly in promoting literacy and for providing resources that otherwise might be difficult to obtain.
>On the other end of the spectrum, Pew identifies segments of the population with little to no involvement with their public libraries. They range from “But not for Me” (4 percent), who have “strikingly negative” views of libraries and “Young & Restless” (7 percent) to “Rooted & Roadblocked” (7 percent) who tend to be older and face medical or personal hurdles that prevent library patronage.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.