Minnesota's public libraries are like libraries in other states in that they are valued for providing free access to educational and entertainment materials, are an open and welcoming gathering place, and for providing resources to those who would otherwise be unable to afford them. A typical list of what comprises Minnesota library collections and downloads can include books and periodicals, professional journals, travel materials, audio books, DVDs, videos, music, and business resources.
Connecting People and Ideas
stakeholders, inside and outside the library represent library users with children or grandchildren; employees from the community at large, who check out materials for use at their workplace, as well as job seekers; library users who contact public library reference libraries for information; and technology users with a need for Internet access.
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 autobiographies affirmed that the librarian has helped to develop the love of books and the sense of connectedness that students need in order to “want” to read. This in turn leads to choice reading, vocabulary increase, higher fluency and the ability to demonstrate those skills in a variety of ways. The individuals in the role of librarian have a huge impact on this willingness and interest in reading.
Parents, almost unanimously, reported that their children enjoyed the program, and afterwards continued to talk about the experience at home. Most parents felt the hands-on projects were the best part of the session; some also mentioned the effective link of books to activities, as well as the positive social aspects of the program.
Twenty-five percent who went to the library learned about political or cultural organizations or leisure activities taking place in the local community. More than 20% went to the library with friends or colleagues to work together on a common assignment or a leisure activity. Seventeen percent used the Internet at the library to contact friends via e-mail, to chat, or to participate in discussion groups, etc. Sixteen percent used the library to learn more about local matters, social or political issues, etc., that they are involved in. Fourteen percent participated in organized meetings, such as author's nights, lectures, meetings with politicians, etc. Ten percent used the library as a place to meet family or friends before going together to the movies, into the city, to do shopping, etc. (p.19)
The foot traffic and cultural vitality the Library brings enhances the desirability of Downtown as a residential and commercial market. It serves as a new icon for Seattle and attracts tourists, knowledge workers, and high technology industries to the City. The Library knits together the residential neighborhoods of Belltown and First Hill and retail concentrations in the Downtown shopping district and Pioneer Square. The Library could be an important contributor in repositioning Downtown as a cultural arts district.
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.
The benefits go far beyond simply enjoyment and amusement, to being an essential form of relaxation for some people, helping to relieve stress, providing a break from the pressures of everyday life, and assisting others with the treatment of an illness. (p.138) The opportunities offered by libraries, in addition to providing access to books and other recreational materials such as videos, further enhance people's leisure time by giving them the chance to socialize and by providing access to activities many others in society take for granted because they can afford them. (p.139)
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)