CHICAGO — Maureen Sullivan, president of the American Library Association (ALA), submitted the following statement regarding the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project report, “Library Services in the Digital Age,” that was released today. The report examines the role of libraries in communities, how people use libraries and their websites and the kinds of services people would like to see from libraries and librarians.
“The American Library Association is pleased to have this new data that both confirms and expands our understanding of why and how people use our nation’s public libraries. As our nation’s librarians look to the future, the Reinventing Libraries report confirms that people want it all: access to computers and technology training; print books and early literacy; and mobile and online services that allow the library resources to be available 24/7.
“The good news is that our nation’s libraries embrace this broad vision of meeting community needs in person and online and already are working to implement it. The challenge, of course, is determining how to best meet growing information and learning demands at a time when many libraries still face flat or reduced budgets.
“I would like to highlight three vital findings from this report:
- People value public libraries and librarians and believe they are important to their communities. Ninety-one percent of those aged 16 and older say that public libraries are important to them. Millions of people have used library services in the past year. They have visited in person and many taken advantage of library websites and digital collections. Half of all those who have visited their library say they did so to get help from a librarian. Eighty percent of all people reported that reference librarians are a “very important” service of libraries. Libraries are centers of learning and discovery, and librarians serve as guides and teachers.
- Libraries continue to be at the forefront of bridging the digital divide. Libraries ensure that all people have access to books in all formats, to the Internet, and to training that enables them to use technology and research resources. More than a quarter of people aged 16 and older say they have used computers or Wi-Fi at the library to go online. People use technology services to do research, to connect with others via email and social media, and to obtain health, government and employment information. Library technology services are essential to serving communities of all sizes. The investments that have been made in our nation’s libraries (e.g., the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) must be sustained.
- Libraries continue to innovate and evolve in ways that bring value to our communities. About 70 percent of public libraries offer digital/virtual reference and information services to answer patron questions. Libraries have tripled the number of e-books available to their readers. Thirty-nine percent of libraries circulate e-book readers for patron use. Ninety percent of libraries offer formal and informal technology training to patrons. A growing number of libraries offer mobile websites, apps and QR links to library resources and services. Many of these new services have been recognized as “cutting-edge technology in library services” by the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy.
“I continue to be inspired by the ways in which libraries are re-inventing themselves in order to continue to reach and serve our diverse communities. Some examples of this innovation are: Contra Costa County (Calif.) Library-a-Go-Go kiosks; the New Canaan (Conn.) High School Library’s Participatory Platforms for Learning; and the Right Service/Right Time mobile website from the Orange County (Fla.) Library System, which connects patrons with government services through their smartphones. Libraries also have expanded their commitment to early literacy through programs such as Every Child Ready to Read and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
“Too often this work and the contributions of librarians to their communities slips under the radar. I thank the Pew Internet Project and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for helping to shine a spotlight on how libraries are reinventing themselves.”
The ALA welcomes Pew Internet Project Director Lee Rainie to the ALA Midwinter Meeting, January 25-29, in Seattle. Rainie will share findings from the new report on Saturday, January 26, at 10:30 a.m. in Washington State Convention Center Room 606-607.