Perception of Libraries

I heard someone say, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”  This is easier said than done, especially for librarians.  The results from the Pew Internet and American Life survey “How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities” were recently released.  I have seen many in the library world praising what are definitely good results. Such as:

  • 95% of Americans ages 16 and older agree that the materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed
  • 94% say that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community
  • 81% say that public libraries provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere

These are definitely things to be proud of.  However, there are some statistics that concern me and I don’t seem to be hearing about them from the library world as much.

  • 52% of Americans say that people do not need public libraries as much as they used to because they can find most information on their own, while 46% disagreed.
  • 54% of Americans have used a public library in the past 12 months
  • 77% of those who have ever used a public library said they know only some of what it offers.  (Of that 77% about one in five say they don’t know very much about what is offered, and 10% say they know “nothing at all.”)

If 94-95% believe libraries are so important then why have only 54% used a library in the last year?  Doesn’t quite make sense.  So while people love their libraries, they don’t know much about their offerings and they don’t use them very often.

This is frustrating because it seems as though people like the idea of the public library as it exists in their heads, but have no idea what it does in practice.  Sounds familiar medical librarians?  I think in order for us to survive we have to do a better job of changing their perception of the library.  Thankfully they like us….but liking us isn’t going to get the tax levy renewed or the keep administration from cutting our budget.  We need to do a better job of demonstrating to our users and non-users how we can help them.  Informing users is tricky enough, but non-users…yikes!  But that is needed for us to turn the perception of a library and the know more about our other services and resources (not just that we have books).

This Thursday #medlibs will discuss the what we see coming to libraries in 2014 and beyond. What is the future of the library?  What do we need to do and where will be going?

Some ideas for the discussion are:

These are all important things to consider, but I also believe part of our future rests with changing perceptions.  If we don’t do that we are going to be the Norman Rockwell of professions. Nice to remember, or as somebody on Twitter said,  “an emotional remembrance.”So tune in on Thursday http://medlibschat.blogspot.com/ as we discuss the library of the future.

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