Libraries are Stacking Up

Thanks to Cheryal Hills in Region Five for the heads up on a recent library report – How Libraries Stack Up: 2010. The report looks at the “economic, social and cultural impact of libraries in the United States” – especially “the role that libraries play in providing assistance to job-seekers and support for small businesses”.

Here are some of the fast facts:

  • Every day 300,000 Americans get job-seeking advice from their public library.
  • Most public libraries provide free wireless Internet access for their users. Nearly 12,000 now offer free Wi-Fi. That’s more than Starbucks, Barnes & Noble or Borders.
  • 2.8 million times every month business owners and employees use resources at public libraries to support their small businesses.
  • More libraries—5,400—offer technology training classes than there are computer training businesses in the U.S. Every day, 14,700 people attend free library computer classes—a retail value of $2.2 million. That’s $629 million worth of computer classes annually (based on 286 business days per year).

I am a librarian, and while it’s been a number of years since I sat at a Reference Desk – these stats all sounded about right to me – but there was one that even I found surprising…

Americans go to the movies and six times more often than we attend live sporting events (includes professional and NCAA football, baseball, basketball and hockey).

  • Here’s another interesting fast fact – 423 Minnesota library users’ responses were part of Public Library Internet Usage National Survey. The got volunteers from four Minnesota libraries.

Here’s more info they found that really focusing on Internet use…

The research determined that 45 percent of library visitors connect to the Internet even though more than three-quarters of these people had Internet access at home, work or elsewhere. Other major findings include:

  • Forty percent of library computer users (an estimated 30 million people) received help with career needs. Among these users, 75 percent reported they searched for a job online. Half of these users filled out an online application or submitted a resume.
  • Thirty-seven percent focused on health issues. The vast majority of these users (82 percent) logged on to learn about a disease, illness, or medical condition. One-third of these users sought out doctors or health care providers. Of these, about half followed up by making appointments for care.
  • Forty-two percent received help with educational needs. Among these users, 37 percent (an estimated 12 million students) used their local library computer to do homework for a class.
  • Library computers linked patrons to their government, communities, and civic organizations. Sixty percent of users—43.3 million people—used a library’s computer resources to connect with others.

I mention the report for a few reasons. First – if you’re someone looking for information on how to use technology – check out your library. There may be some scheduled training – but even if there isn’t, you may find a helpful librarian to offer some assistance. Most of us love questions, just pick a slower time to come in. Second – if you are responsible for broadband adoption or deployment in your community – check out the library and talk to the librarians about how people are using the Internet, how many people are coming in and what programs they library is offering and how you can collaborate. (Not to talk up the librarians too much, but they are great collaborators.)

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