American libraries are buffeted by cross currents. Citizens believe that libraries are important community institutions and profess interest in libraries offering a range of new program possibilities. Yet, even as the public expresses interest in additional library services, there are signs that the share of Americans visiting libraries has edged downward over the past three years, although it is too soon to know whether or not this is a trend.
A new survey from Pew Research Center brings this complex situation into stark relief. Many Americans say they want public libraries to:
- support local education;
- serve special constituents such as veterans, active-duty military personnel and immigrants;
- help local businesses, job seekers and those upgrading their work skills;
- embrace new technologies such as 3-D printers and provide services to help patrons learn about high-tech gadgetry.
Additionally, two-thirds of Americans (65%) ages 16 and older say that closing their local public library would have a major impact on their community. Low-income Americans, Hispanics and African Americans are more likely than others to say that a library closing would impact their lives and communities.