Contrary to the mythology propounded by certain self-anointed visionaries, the public library is very much alive and well in contemporary America – and increasingly used by citizens to meet their informational and recreational needs.
The demise of the library may indeed be just around the corner, but that corner appears to recede ever further into the distance with each step we take.
“Between 1997 and 2007, per capita visits to public libraries increased nationwide by 19 percent. During the same period, per capita circulation increased by 12 percent. This growth in demand for library services occurred even as people increasingly turned to the Internet to meet other information needs.” And frequently, many of them used the internet to meet those needs in their public library
The Institute of Museum and Library Services has released a new research brief on Service Trends in US Public Libraries, 1997-2007. Their final conclusion, after surveying all the available evidence is that “the nation’s public libraries continue to be valued community resources. National per person visitation and circulation have both increased solidly over the past decade, a trend that would not necessarily have been predicted given the rise of the Internet and the increased presence of large booksellers over the same period.”
For further details and other observations, see the research brief, or take a quick glance at the IMLS news release on the study.