For immediate release | June 22, 2012

ALA president responds to new Pew report on ‘Libraries, Patrons and E-books’

Washington, D.C. — Molly Raphael, president of the American Library Association (ALA), released the following statement regarding today’s release of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project report “Libraries, Patrons, and E-books.” The report examines the roles that libraries play in the shifting digital terrain as e-reading, tablet computers and e-book readers become more popular.

“The American Library Association believes that the rise of e-books — and, in fact, the overall growth in digital content of all kinds — constitutes both great opportunity and profound challenge for our nation’s libraries and communities,” Raphael said. “We appreciate the Pew Internet Project’s study and focus on libraries and their continued transformation in the Digital Age.

“The new report underscores that libraries continue to be a vital part of people’s lives in the digital age. Close to 70 percent of people say their local library is important to them and their family, and a majority of adults 16 years and older (58 percent) are library cardholders.

“Library patrons are:

  • big readers (they read double the number of books as non-library users)
  • book buyers (are twice as likely to buy as to borrow), and
  • technology users (are more likely than non-library users to be Internet users and to own cell phones, desktop and laptop computers)

“The research also confirms that many people look to librarians to support digital literacy and learn new skills that lead to wider adoption of technology. The double- and triple-digit growth libraries have reported in demand for e-books, desire for access to e-book readers, and requests for e-book reader assistance and classes clearly express a hunger for these services.

“The report also flags issues that demand attention. While more than three-quarters of U.S. public libraries now offer e-books (76 percent, compared with 38 percent only five years ago), many people are not yet aware of this service. Clearly there is an opportunity here for us to step up our outreach and increase public awareness of all the 21st century services our libraries have to offer readers, thinkers, entrepreneurs and dreamers. ALA and libraries welcome this challenge.”

“Of course, awareness is not enough. When people go to their public libraries to borrow e-books, they should be able to find titles from all of our publishers. As Pew points out, there are difficulties with respect to e-book availability in our nation’s libraries.

“Libraries cannot lend what they cannot obtain. ALA and others continue to call on publishers to make their e-books available to libraries at fair prices and terms. Libraries seek partners and collaborators to continue building a culture of reading and learning that embraces all formats, for all ages and all backgrounds.”

The ALA welcomes Pew Internet Project Director Lee Rainie to the ALA Annual Conference, June 21–26, in Anaheim, Calif. Rainie will share findings from the new report on Sunday, June 24, at 10:30 a.m. at “The Rise of E-reading” program; then will join a panel on “Access to Digital Content: Diverse Approaches” at 1:30 p.m.

Visit to learn more about the Pew study and the American Libraries magazine’s E-Content blog for up-to-date news on libraries and digital content.



Macey Morales

Media Relations Manager

American Library Association

Public Information Office (PIO)