Libraries at the crossroads

pew-research-centerIn a new survey from Pew Research Center, the dichotomy of public interest in additional library services and the numbers of Americans visiting libraries edging downward over the past three years, would make anyone’s head spin. It seems people want more from their library, but once again, the numbers indicate that fewer of them are using the library. This continues to be somewhat of a conundrum, one that librarians should all think about. What can be done?

There are many aspects of this report worthy of thought, and we encourage you to peruse the full report, while we ponder the following report kernel here…

Of note, in the survey, “85% of Americans say that libraries should “definitely” coordinate with schools in providing resources for children.” This kind of collaboration sounds good, but what does it mean from a practical standpoint? Are K-12 curriculum directors (if there are any) interested in working with public librarians who are trying to provide useful childrens resources? Are public libraries funded adequately to ensure each child has a public library card? Probably not!  But parents could get involved in a big way. It already takes a parent’s permission to give the child a card, so maybe a promotion to parents by the schools could move this work forward. In the CMLE region, we just did a needs assessment so we can share the following data in this area:

  • 90% of CMLE survey respondents live within 10 miles of their public library. Only 20% of CMLE membership filled out the survey, but it is still a great start!
  • The online resources of the public library are accessible almost anywhere as long as students have a library card and an internet connection. Idea: handout for parents during parent-teacher conferences promoting a library card! If the bulk of cards were secured through parents, the flow of work for the public libraries in possibly more manageable.
  • And yes, there is always room for growth. Of our 2015 CMLE respondents, 52% had a working relationship with their public library, which is also a great start. CMLE staff are pondering whether an event where schools and public libraries could begin or grow a relationship might be of interest. If you want to help our staff plan such an event, send email to
  • We also learned that 49% of K-12 survey takers didn’t know if their students checked out eBooks from the public library. School media staff need to ask this question…it could help the public libraries as they further develop their eBook collections and would inform the buying decisions of schools too.
  • There appears to be room for growth and continued collaboration between schools and public libraries and CMLE stands ready to support and assist. Our strength lies in creating space and opportunity for such events to take place.

Read the full report now.