Happily, 42 percent gave public libraries an "A", ranking us at the top of local public services that included police and public safety, parks and recreation, public schools, social service, roads and mass transit, and local government efficiency. Marylanders told us that, next to public green space (parks), they ranked public libraries as the most desired community asset.
Eighty-one percent (81%) of economically impacted Americans have a library card compared to 68% for Americans who have not been impacted. Economically impacted Americans are 50% more likely to visit their library at least weekly (18% vs. 12%) and are nearly a third more likely to visit at least once a month (36% vs. 27%). More than a third (37%) of economically impacted respondents said they are using the library more often than they did before the economic downturn. Increased library use is substantially higher than any other lifestyle activity increase measured.
A majority of public libraries, 67%, report that they are the only free source of computer and Internet access for the communities they serve.
The economic value of the Library services that help Philadelphians learn to read and acquire working skills totals $21.8 million for FY10, comprised of:$18.4 million in literacy-related reading & lending$2.6 million in literacy related programming$818,000 in literacy-related online activities(p.5)
Computers and the Internet have radically changed how people communicate and socialize with one another, express themselves, seek help for problems, and learn about their family histories. Recent research has pointed out secondary effects which have may have downstream results affecting the users and their families who engage in social activities using computers in libraries and other public places. Milner (2009) found that, “Internet users reported an easier social life than non-users, and a stronger awareness of important current affairs. They also tended to have higher self confidence than non-users.” Immigrant communities may also use public access computers to help keep their families together (Parkinson 2005).Social activities are an important component of many users’ interaction with library computer and Internet services, providing an entry point into more practical uses of the computers such as the others discussed previously. Learning how to use the technologies associated with computers and the Internet, and forming a social support group that can assist with future activities, may be important indirect contributing factors to the impact of library computers on the individuals and communities they serve.Overall, 60 percent of users (46.3 million people) used their public library’s computer and Internet resources to connect with other people, find support for a problem or concern, or enjoy other social activities. Over 34 percent of these users indicated they had undertaken actions in this area on behalf of a relative, friend, colleague, or someone else in the past year. (p. 158-9)
With the increasing use of the Internet and online media to support political and social activities and provide access to news and current events across the country, access to the Internet becomes an important component of community life. The study found that people use their library’s computers and Internet connection to organize or participate in community groups, volunteer, engage in political and social causes, and keep up with the news and current events.The actions enabled by access to the library computers for many users are perhaps even more important, ranging from finding funding sources or members for community groups to donating to political or social causes. As communities become more distributed and less based on geographic proximity, the library is helping those who might otherwise have no other access to online communities participate in an active way in our society.Overall, 33 percent of users (25.5 million people) used their public library’s computer and Internet resources to learn about social or political issues or to participate in community life. Of these users, 40 percent indicated they had undertaken activities in this area for a relative, friend, colleague, or someone else in the past year. (p. 131)
A first step in meeting educational needs for many users is learning about a program of study—almost 37 percent of library computer users who engaged in educational activities indicated that they used library computer resources to look for information on educational programs ranging from GEDs to graduate degrees. (p.61)
Libraries have become an important part of the educational system in the United States, particularly through their computer and Internet services; in addition to allowing users access to the educational system online, they provide individual work stations, specialized classes, one-on-one training, and coordinated efforts with other groups in support of educational activities. (p.56)