Public attitudes to public libraries in the USA

Just 13% of respondents question the necessity of libraries at all in the Internet age.

Ten years ago, OCLC published From Awareness to Funding: A Study of Library Support in America.

Now it has partnered with the American Library Association and its Public Library Association division to explore how attitudes have shifted.

Key findings

  • 55% of voters view the public library as an essential local institution
  • 53% see libraries as a source of community pride
  • 58% say public libraries advance education
  • 51% believe libraries enhance the quality of life of any community
What’s changed since 2008

Libraries are increasingly seen as a community hub for human connection and lifelong learning

  • Significantly more voters today (43%) describe the library as a place that offers activities and entertainment you can’t find anywhere else in the community than did in 2008 (34%)
  • 48% believe this is an important role for libraries (38% in 2008)
  • 44% see their local library as a place for people in the community to gather and socialise (35% in 2008)
  • 42% of voters feel that the library helps provide people with skills for the workplace (35% in 2008)
  • 35% say the library provides programmes for immigrants and non-English speakers (25% in 2008)

Some traditional library services are used less often

  • Use of nonfiction (53% now vs 67% ten years ago)
  • Print reference material (34% now vs 51% in 2008)
  • In person visits are down to 70% from 79%

The report identifies some ways in which public libraries can influence the way the US public feels about them including:

  • Targeted public awareness efforts
  • Amplifying resources and impacts for school age children
  • Identifying and cultivating Super Supporters
  • Clarify misconceptions about funding

The full report is available to download here and is well worth reading.