Public library

Public libraries provide valuable meeting spaces

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).

Public libraries provide crucial access to computers and the Internet

Technology has become increasingly important, and the issue of a level playing field is particularly important in this regard. Although home computers and Internet service have gotten considerably less expensive in recent years than they were a decade ago, the fact remains that they are still a luxury that a sizeable segment of the population cannot afford. In 2003 (the most recent year for which data is available) 38.2% of Wisconsin households were without computers, and 45.3% of Wisconsin households were without Internet access. What was once a luxury has increasingly become a necessity, as many businesses, organizations, and individuals rely on websites and online resources. Certain job opportunities, events and programs, and other resources are primarily if not exclusively advertised and made available online, and libraries open the door for everyone to enjoy these opportunities even if they would be otherwise unable to afford to do so (p. 54).

Patrons find that public libraries improve quality of life and are a good use of tax revenue

Respondents were surveyed about their attitude toward public libraries and the extent to which they value the presence of public libraries in their communities. Almost all respondents felt that public libraries contribute in a meaningful way to the quality of life in their community, and that funding public libraries was a good use of tax revenue. These results are not surprising, inasmuch as the overwhelming number of survey respondents were regular library users. However, a recent statewide survey of Wisconsin residents, which was prepared for the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium (WPLC) included a random representative sample of both library users and non-users indicates that even among the population as a whole, the vast majority of Wisconsin residents value their public libraries ... Although the number of respondents who "strongly" agreed was higher among the NorthStar survey, which included fewer non-library users than the WPLC survey, more than 85% of respondents to both surveys agreed that libraries enhance quality of life, and support funding libraries with their tax dollars (p. 46).