Social Impact

Public libraries play a particularly important role in providing Internet

Public libraries play a particularly important role in providing Internet access to minorities and teens in lower-income households. Sixty percent of teenagers who go online use public library Internet access. For example, in households earning $75,000 or more per year, 99% of teens use the Internet from home, while 74% go online from school, and 57% go online from a library. By contrast, in households earning less than $30,000 per year, just 70% of teens go online from home, but 75% have access at school and 72% go online at the library. “For many minority and lower-income teens, schools and libraries serve as a primary source of Internet access. While 93% of teenage Internet users go online from more than one location, schools and libraries serve as a primary source of Internet access for many minority and lower-income teens.”

Public libraries create a bridge for teens across the digital divide

Public libraries create a bridge for teens across the digital divide. High-speed Internet access is increasingly necessary for full participation in educational, cultural, and employment opportunities. Students from low-income families are less likely to have adequate Internet access than their wealthier peers. In its most recent report on Internet access, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce found that as income increases, higher percentages of Internet users have access to broadband service at home. Internet users with broadband access at home are also more likely to be daily Internet users (66.1%) than those without broadband at home (51.2%). Additionally, users without access to broadband service at home make up 90% of non-Internet users; of these, 75.3% of non-Internet users have no access to the Internet at home. This is a significant disadvantage when employers increasingly prefer (and some require) applicants to apply online. Access to the Internet is frequently a crucial step in the job search process. Further, in a 2007 study [Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study 2006–2007], 73% of public libraries reported that they were the only source of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities. Surveyed libraries said the three Internet services most critical to their community were online educational resources and databases for K–12 students (used by 67.7% of visitors); services for job-seekers (44%); and computer and Internet skills training (29.8%).

Students gain important critical thinking and career-building skills at the public library

Students gain important critical thinking and career-building skills at the public library. A survey of more than 430 human resource officials, conducted in 2006 by the New York City-based Conference Board, found that 72% rated recent hires as deficient in basic English writing skills, such as grammar and spelling, and 81% rated them as deficient in written communications more broadly, such as memos, letters, and complex technical reports. In a 2005 survey conducted for the National Association of Manufacturers, 84% of respondents said schools were not doing a good job preparing students for the workplace, with more than half citing specific deficiencies in mathematics and science and 3% citing deficiencies in reading and comprehension. The lack of applied or “soft” skills—everyday social skills, work ethic, verbal and nonverbal communications, attendance, interview abilities, time and workload management, working productively with others, and attitude—dominated the complaints of business leaders. People who score higher on “measures of complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and fluency with ideas have higher mean earnings in the labor market, across all levels of education.”

Libraries provide homework resources

Libraries provide portals for children to perform age-appropriate Internet searches. More than 68% of libraries reported offering homework resources in 2006–2007—serving the educational needs of more than 36 million school-age children—up 7.3% from the previous year. Almost 68% of library staff reported that providing educational resources and databases for K–12 students was most critical to the role of the public library branch in their community

Libraries draw families from across the socio-economic spectrum

Libraries are uniquely positioned to respond to the achievement gap, because they draw families from across the socio-economic spectrum. Libraries are second only to religious-sponsored events as the destinations of choice for family outings regardless of parents’ economic and education levels.

High satisfaction with children's material for Latinos who frequently visit the library

For Latinos who visited the library weekly or more, the second most common reason for their visits was to take their children (33.6%). They were more satisfied with children’s books (91.9% and movies (86.9%) in English than with the same materials in Spanish (76.5% and 66.9% respectively). Satisfaction was also high with programs for children (85.5%).

Public library summer reading programs impact children living in poverty

Public library summer reading programs can have a profound impact, especially on children living in poverty. On the whole, these children have a greater summer learning loss than do children from affluent families, and any gains that they had over the summer were smaller than their peers whose families had higher incomes. Twice as many fourth graders (58% versus 27%) from disadvantaged families fell below the basic level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) than did students from more affluent families, and far fewer tested at a proficient level (13% verses 40%)

Public libraries are ideal to serve students as an after-school activities venue

Public libraries are in an ideal position to serve students as an after-school activities and services venue. Of K-8 students who participated in weekly non-parental after-school care arrangements, 77% participated in homework, educational, reading, or writing activities. This number was stable across student characteristics—such as age, sex, and race/ethnicity—and family characteristics, such as family type, household income, and poverty status.

School librarians engage in information literacy instruction

School librarians in New Jersey clearly do engage in a range of information literacy instruction initiatives. This instruction primarily centers on knowing about the school library, knowing about difference sources and formats, with sound levels related to understanding the different strategies in doing effective research, learning how to use the resources, evaluating information for quality, and learning to use information ethically.


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