Amongst all the other things I’ve been doing for this summer’s fantastic reading program, I squeezed in a webinar on the impact of libraries on early reading development.  To be fair, I grumbled about the timing of the program.  I mean, what are they doing presenting this program to Children’s Librarians at the busiest time of the year?  But then I decided that I could probably fit in an hour, especially if it was quiet in the library.  As it happened, I was only interrupted 5 times, which was very manageable.  Anyway, while I learned some new information on early reading, I learned far more about how parents (and others) around our nation feel about libraries from Lee Rainie of
The Pew Research Center is considered to be the gold standard for unbiased, scientific community surveys, so I fully expected the presenter to be somewhat dull and perhaps a little boring. Imagine my surprise when he sounded downright giddy to be talking about their recent report concerning libraries.  To quote:  “We just don’t see these numbers in other areas.  This level of agreement throughout our nation is unheard of in any of our other studies.”  Yikes, and they’re talking about libraries?
Well, this got my attention and I completely ignored the ruckus being raised at the puzzle table.  What I learned is that parents and the general populace really like us.  I mean they really, really, like us and they think we’re important to them.  The number one takeaway from this vast nationwide study is that libraries are appreciated.  A full 91% (this was the statistic responsible for the giddiness) of the respondents said libraries were important to their community.  Another 76% said they were important to their family and them personally.  And then, when it comes to parents, 94% said libraries are important for their children.  Ok, so I knew that, but I never in a million years thought that many other people knew it too.
Wow!  I confess that I was starting to feel a bit like Sally Field when she won her Oscar.  Then Mr. Rainie began with the survey comparisons between libraries and other institutions.  Once again libraries came out on top.  (Mr. Rainie was almost jumping out of his seat now.)  Did you know that Americans have more confidence in libraries than just about any other service provided by our fine government (excepting those hunky firemen), and even many other services provided in our communities?  Yep, libraries beat out banks, TV stations, newspapers, schools, hospitals, big business and more.  Of course I believe this, but no one can accuse me of unbiased thinking when it comes to libraries… 
So, what about our future?  I’ve heard plenty of doomsday prophecies.  E-books are the death of libraries; print books will be gone, etc.  How does America really feel?  Well, more than 80% of them say “keep the books”.    Hmm… not only do Americans like libraries, but they also like print books.  I’m starting to think that perhaps the rest of the world is finally catching on to the wonder my world.  Way to go, Pew!
Click HERE to read the summary of findings.
-Dawn Heisel, Public Services Librarian