It’s National Library Week and the perfect time to appreciate just how incredible this community resource is.
Think about it—if a start-up company or the government announced today that they were starting a new initiative to provide free access to any and all books, music, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, local and national speakers, movies, TV shows, children’s and adult education and enrichment programs, computer programs and more, all for simply signing up for a free card (or not, if you don’t want to take the materials with you or register for events), it would be one of the most radical and far-reaching ideas in history.
Happily, we live in an age where libraries are established and resources are abundant. There are plenty of reasons to love libraries, but here are some of the most incredible:
1. Free Internet
Almost 89 percent of public library outlets now offer wireless Internet access, and some 26 percent of Americans ages 16 and older say they used the computers there or the WiFi connection to go online. Here’s what they did on that free Internet access:
- Did research for school or work – 66 percent
- Browsed the Internet for fun or to pass the time – 63 percent
- Used email – 54 percent
- Got health information – 47 percent
- Visited government websites or got information about government services – 41 percent
- Looked for jobs or applied for jobs online – 36 percent
- Visited social networking sites – 35 percent
- Downloaded or watched online video – 26 percent
- Bought a product online – 16 percent
- Paid bills or did online banking – 16 percent
- Took an online class or completed an online certification program – 16 percent
Additionally, some 36 percent of those who had ever visited a library say the library staff had helped them use a computer or the Internet at a library.
2. Free access to materials and resources
A 2012 poll conducted for the American Library Association found that 94 percent of responders agreed that public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed because they provide free access to materials and resources.
Library patrons say they visit to
- Browse the shelves for books or media – 73 percent
- Borrow print books – 73 percent
- Research topics that interest them – 54 percent
- Get help from a librarian – 50 percent
- Sit, read, study or watch or listen to media – 49 percent
- Use a research database – 46 percent
- Attend or bring a younger person to a class, program or event designed for children or teens – 41 percent
- Borrow a DVD or videotape of a movie or TV show – 40 percent
- Read or check out printed magazines or newspapers – 31 percent
- Attend a meeting of a group to which they belong – 23 percent
- Attend a class, program or lecture for adults – 21 percent
- Borrow or download an audio book – 17 percent
- Borrow a music CD – 16 percent
3. A community staple
Fully 91 percent of Americans ages 16 and older say public libraries are important to their communities; and 76 percent say libraries are important to them and their families.
And libraries are touch points in their communities for the vast majority of Americans: 84 percent of Americans ages 16 and older have been to a library or bookmobile at some point in their lives and 77 percent say they remember someone else in their family using public libraries as they were growing up.