Public libraries needed now more than ever
Provide vital job-hunting and education resources to tens of millions
PHOENIX – Roughly one-third of the U.S. population over age 14 – 77 million people – used a public library to access the Internet in 2009. Of these, roughly half used library resources to find information related to their career or education.
The findings, uncovered through a recent national study, are part of a new report titled Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries. The report was based on nearly 50,000 surveys of library patrons at more than 400 institutions across the country, and shows how public libraries have emerged during the recession as a critical safety net for Americans seeking no-cost resources to find a job or further their education. While citizen use is up, libraries are coming under increasing financial pressure as cash-strapped state and local governments cut funding.
“These are tough times for everyone, and government at all levels is being asked to do more with less. But this is not the time for draconian cuts to public libraries,” said Secretary of State Ken Bennett, whose office includes the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. “Arizonans – many of whom may no longer have Internet access at home – are turning to libraries for the help they need during this economic downturn.”
Opportunity for All is based on a 2009 national study conducted by the University of Washington. The work was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Among the report’s findings:
- 40% of library computer users, an estimated 30 million people nationwide, used library resources for career help in 2009. Of these, three-quarters said they searched for a job online.
- 42% used the library for education services, including an estimated 12 million students who used a library computer to complete class homework.
- 84% of survey respondents called the local library an important asset to their community.
“With unemployment hovering around 10 percent, there is a huge population of people who need Internet access and job-searching assistance,” said State Librarian GladysAnn Wells. “Arizona libraries are stepping up to fill this need.”
To view the full report of Opportunity for All, visit: http://impact.ischool.washington.edu/documents/OPP4ALL_FinalReport.pdf.