December 11, 2013; Pew Internet

In an environment where many institutions are plagued with a lack of public confidence, libraries still stand out as trusted and valued. A recent Pew study shows that the large majority of Americans 16 and older say that public libraries play an important role in their communities. According to this study:

  • 95 percent of Americans 16 and older agree that the materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed;
  • 95 percent say that public libraries are important because they promote literacy and a love of reading;
  • 94 percent say that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community; and
  • 81 percent say that public libraries provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere.

So much for that nonsense about our not needing libraries as they exist anymore. Most Americans feel that library closures would have a negative impact on them and their communities.


And the services they find most valuable are those at the core of the library as it has always existed.

 Table 1

However, some services are valued more greatly by those with fewer resources:

  • 56 percent of Internet users without home access say public libraries’ basic technological resources (such as computers, Internet, and printers) are “very important” to them and their family, compared with 33 percent of all respondents.
  • 49 percent of unemployed and retired respondents say they find librarian assistance in finding information to be “very important,” compared with 41 percent of employed respondents.
  • 47 percent of job seekers say help finding or applying for jobs is “very important” to them and their families.
  • 40 percent of those living with a disability say help applying for government services is “very important,” compared with 27 percent of those without a disability.

In all, Andrew Carnegie should be very, very proud, and that guy who tried to transfer local grants from the library to a new prison should take heed. The local library budget may not be a good source to wring dry.—Ruth McCambridge