Are you at home looking at this blog? Are you at work? We’re willing to bet that almost half of you are looking at this blog from your public library. Every time we walk into a library, we see full computer stations and laptops on desktops. “The computers are always jam-packed with neighbors of all ages, it is almost like the library functions as the South Park Computer Lab,” Shawna Murphy recently told us.
Now, a new study released this week from the University of Washington Information School, reveals exactly how many of us are relying on library computer access for: job searches (75% of respondents), health information (82% ), homework (42%), and staying in touch with family and friends (64%).
In the past year, one-third of our national population over the age of 14 used a public library to access a computer or to find wi-fi.
In the past year, 50% of the population between 14 and 18 used library computers – mostly for homework.
What does this mean? It means libraries are indispensable extensions of our schools. They’re helping our kids with homework and college preparation and keeping our unemployed neighbors hopeful by offering a dependable and resourceful place to look for jobs. They’re bridging the digital divide that could separate us from one another. They’re a resource and investment that return exponential value to our communities-especially during periods of recession.
“Policy makers must fully recognize and support the role libraries are playing in workforce development, education, health and wellness, and the delivery of government services,” Marsha Semmel of the Institute of Museum and Library Services said in response to the study’s findings. Media headlines about the study also tell the story: “Web Usage up at libraries: many young, low-income people rely on public Internet access for research . . .” writes the Spokesman Review. “A third of Americans — about 77 million people — use public-library computers to look for jobs, connect with friends, do their homework and improve their lives,” writes the Seattle Times, citing the study’s findings.
What can you do to help our libraries? Get involved with the Friends of The Seattle Public Library. firstname.lastname@example.org