People prefer to live near a public library if they have a choice, and often perceive library access as part of an enhanced quality of life, although it is rarely a direct factor in home purchase decision making.
Create and Strengthen Communities
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.
The role of the library as a community gathering place was stressed repeatedly at focus group sessions. Whether discussing concerts, classes, and other events, book clubs and other social groups, or simply a forum where people could come and sit, talk, and read, quite a few people expressed their appreciation that libraries stand alone in many communities as a gathering place. Although many towns also have community centers and parks, Wisconsin winters render such options unavailable a significant amount of the time. Many interviewees place a great deal of importance on the value of a comfortable public library facility where they can gather, especially as opportunities for social interaction have decreased in the wake of more people seeking out services online (p. 54).
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).
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).
There appears to be no statistically significant difference between these education groups in their feeling of the importance of having a public library in every community. All groups feel this is important.
Ninety-five percent of users and 83% of non-users feel having a library in every community is either somewhat or very importantOverall 80% of non-users and 93% of users felt that public library support should remain the same or be increased.
As institutions, libraries supported events that tie to the larger cultural practices of coming together as part of a community
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is the area's most visited regional asset. The Main Library in Oakland alone is the second most visited destination in the City. (p.2)
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)