Public libraries support personal productivity and cultural engagement

Directly related to the issue of citizens and their personal productivity is the survey finding that for almost half of patrons, the prime reason for visiting the central library was to look for information on a subject. Interviews with patrons revealed an extremely wide array of reasons as to why information was being sought. While some reasons had to do with paid employment (looking up information directly related to their work), in many cases the information sought related to other areas of life involving serious projects and pursuits that could not be characterized as merely recreational, including projects having to do with theater set design, a photographic exhibition, research for a film, small business development, and writing a screenplay, to name a few. These examples emphasize that the construction of public culture is a complex, ongoing process in which individuals are engaged in often surprising ways. Thus, the research suggests that the search for relevant information and its subsequent use in productive activity may be an integral characteristic of the construction of contemporary public culture in the emergent twenty-first century. If this is true, the central library is then a key site of both cultural consumption and production and a facilitator of civil society in a way that other public places are not (p. 354).

The public library supports continuing education, workforce development, and sense of place in community

People must continually educate themselves, upgrade their skills, and reorient themselves to new realities. Interviews with patrons demonstrated that many individuals who were unemployed used the library as a home base to explore employment opportunities, even receiving cell phone calls in the library about job interviews. There was also much evidence that patrons were using the library as a place to make the transition into Canadian society, particularly through the learning of English. For instance, the seating sweeps in Vancouver revealed that a large number of patrons (more than half on many sweeps) in the library on any given day were involved in studying English. The central library, then, acts as a place where individuals in transition can feel included and productive in a way that would be almost impossible in other public spaces, such as cafes, parks, museums, arenas, and municipal offices (p. 354).

The library as a safe, important, and central public space

It seems clear that the central library is, indeed, central to the life activities of large numbers of people, is an important space in which public culture is constructed and lived, and thus has a deep sense of place attachment for its users. The central library attracts all ages and linguistic groups, has a well-educated clientele, and is regarded as a safe and appropriate destination for women, children, and men (p. 353).

Public libraries support access to government information

Furthermore, public libraries are the primary site to locate information about and produced by the various levels of government. Governments, in turn, depend on libraries to collect and disseminate government information. As governments are increasingly making information available in electronic format only, it becomes even more important for libraries to provide electronic access to their users free of charge, so all members of the community, regardless of income bracket, will be able to find needed government information. Canadian public libraries are the major distribution channel of government documents to the public. Through the Depository Services Program, libraries receive government information. “By using the infrastructure of the library community to provide access, the federal government guarantees long-term and wide-spread availability of information gathered” (Canadian Government Publishing Centre, 1990, p.3) (170).

Direct and indirect economic benefits of public libraries

An economic analysis model on the circular flow of economic activity involving libraries looks at indirect demand and measures economic spin-offs. Taking into account both direct and indirect impacts, in 1993/1994 Ontario public libraries contributed $486 million to the GDP. The direct and indirect impact in terms of jobs reached more than 9.000 in 1993/1994. Government direct and indirect revenues generated by public library activity in Ontario, calculated from direct and indirect taxes, duties, and from the sale of cultural goods and services are estimated to generate almost $38 million in revenue to various levels of government (22).

The teacher-librarian was considered a key teacher

One of the benefits of partnering cited by the teachers was that each teacher could bring his or her own strengths to the partnership. Similarly, teachers assisted each other in building skills in areas where they themselves may be less knowledgeable. The teacher-librarian was considered a key teacher who was knowledgeable in many fields, could see the big picture and was capable of tapping into many resources inside and outside the school.

High performing schools have more computers with library catalogue and internet access

Schools with a greater number of library and school computers with catalogue access, and schools with a greater number of library computers with Internet access were more likely to be higher achieving schools. Libraries at high performing schools had 52% more computers with Internet access and nearly twice as many computers with library catalogue access. Even more profound, high performing schools offered nearly three time as many computer with school-wide library catalogue access than low performing schools.

High performing school librarieshave more group visits and more circulation per week

School libraries seeing more group visits per week and more items circulation per week, were more likely to be at higher achieving schools… High performing school libraries received an average of 19.9 student group visits per week versus 13.8 at low performing school libraries. Teacher-librarians at high performing schools had an average of 13.1 information skills group contacts per week versus 8.3 at low performing schools. And circulation numbers were 42% higher at schools with better school achievement.

High performing schools have teacher-librarians working with students and teachers

Schools in which teacher-librarians were spending more hours offering student reading incentives, providing more information skill group contacts per week, and identifying materials for teachers were more likely to be higher achieving schools. High performing school teacher-librarians spent an average of 3.0 hours per week on reading incentive activities, twice that of counterparts at low performing schools. High performing school teacher-librarians also spent 2.8 hours per week identifying materials for teachers, more than double that of counterparts at low performing schools.

Well-staffed school libraries are associated with high performance schools

School libraries managed by qualified professional staff and supported by clerical and volunteer staff were more likely to be associated with higher school performance. Libraries with more qualified school librarian hours, more paid clerical and technical staff hours, a larger number of volunteers and total number of staff were more likely to be associated with high school performance.


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