ALA president responds to Pew Research Center study that highlights vital role of libraries in digital age

For Immediate Release
Tue, 09/15/2015


Macey Morales
Deputy Director
Public Awareness Office

CHICAGO — Libraries are transforming as society stands at a critical juncture with regard to the changing information landscape and the skills needed to thrive in our digital world.   Libraries at the Crossroads,  a survey released today by the Pew Research Center,  affirms the evolving role of public libraries within their communities as vital resources that advance education and digital empowerment.

American Library Association (ALA) President Sari Feldman released the following statement regarding the survey’s findings:

“Public libraries are transforming beyond their traditional roles and providing more opportunities for community engagement and new services that connect closely with patrons’ needs,” said Feldman. “Today’s study shows that public libraries are far from being  just ‘nice to have,’ but serve as a lifeline for their users, as the survey shows more than 65 percent of those surveyed felt that closing their local public library would have a major impact on their community.

“Libraries are not just about what we have for people, but what we do for and with people. Today’s survey found that three-quarters of the public say libraries have been effective at helping people learn how to use new technologies.  This is buttressed by the ALA’s Digital Inclusion Survey, which finds that virtually all libraries provide free public access to computers and the Internet, wi-fi, technology training and robust digital content that supports education, employment, e-government access and more.

“Although the report affirms the value of public libraries, the ALA recognizes the need for greater public awareness of the transformation of library services, as the report shows library visits over the past three years have slightly decreased.  In response, libraries of all types are preparing for the launch of a national public awareness campaign entitled ‘Libraries Transform.’ 

“Libraries from across the county will participate in the campaign and will work to change the perception that ‘libraries are just quiet places to do research, find a book, and read’ to ‘libraries are centers of their communities: places to learn, create and share, with the help of library staff and the resources they provide.

“This is an exciting time for libraries, as institutions transform to meet the digital and print needs of their users, and to continue to fulfill their role in leveling the playing field for all who seek information and access to technologies.”

Other interesting findings that point to the vital role of libraries in communities nationwide include:

  • 65 percent maintain that libraries contribute to helping people decide what information they can trust.
  • 75 percent say libraries have been effective at helping people learn how to use new technologies.
  • 78 percent believe that libraries are effective at promoting literacy and love of reading.

The Pew Research Center 2015 libraries survey conducted telephone interviews, with a nationally representative probability sample of 2,004 people ages 16 and older living in the United States. The research was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

For more information regarding the transformation of libraries and library professionals please visit

About the American Library Association
The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 55,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the ALA is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.