Libraries are still vibrant, say Americans – but need to keep up

Libraries are 'important' to their communities, say 91 percent of Americans in a Pew survey, but they need more e-books and more programs for children.

Gary Emord-Netzley/The Messenger-Inquirer/AP
Siblings Luke, Levi, and David Congleton look at a book while waiting for story time to begin at the Daviess County Public Library, in Owensboro, Ky.

Not long ago, we learned that the millennial generation is still valuing its local libraries. Now a new Pew report has assured us that libraries continue to enjoy a vibrant place in the community for people of all ages.

According to a new Pew report, almost 60 percent of people who responded to a survey said they’d used their library within the past year, while a whopping 91 percent agreed with the statement that “public libraries are important to their communities.” 

According to the Pew data, which was taken between October and November of 2012, most of those who are going to libraries are doing so for traditional reasons, with 73 percent saying they go to the library to borrow print books. By contrast, 26 percent said they go with the purpose of using their library’s computers or WiFi services. 

But respondents were firm in their opinion that libraries had to embrace technology to stay relevant. About 77 percent said that free computer access and access to the Internet is “very important,” and many stressed the importance of libraries engaging with younger generations, with 85 percent saying that libraries should “definitely” work with local schools and offer literacy programs at no cost for children.

And it seems that even those who aren’t yet fully invested in e-books want to try them, with 53 percent of respondents stating that libraries should “definitely” offer a wider range of e-books for patrons.

In short, the Americans surveyed seem to be staying loyal to their local libraries, but they are also perceive a need for libraries to stay in step with the latest technologies and to engage the next generation.

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