State of America’s Libraries Report 2011: Public libraries-- A key resource for the jobless, entrepreneurs –– and the community

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Digital supplement cover: State of America's Libraries Report 2011

More than two-thirds of adults responding to a January 2011 Harris Poll Quorum (PDF). created for the American Library Association said that the library’s assistance in starting a business or finding a job was important to them. These figures were up from a year earlier, testament both to Americans’ entrepreneurial spirit and libraries’ role in nourishing that spirit.

The ALA conducted the January study as part of a Harris Interactive telephone omnibus study conducted Jan. 19-23 with a nationwide cross-section of 1,012 adults.

Table 1: Who has a library card, and who goes to the library

Most likely to have library card

Most likely to have visited the library in past year

Working mothers (81%)

Working mothers (88%)

Working women (78%)

Working women (78%)

Postgraduates (77%)

Women aged 35-54 (77%)

Women age 18-34 (75%)

Postgraduates (77%)

College graduates (71%)

Those with some college (74%)

Women (70%)

Women aged 18-34 (74%)

Household income of $100,000+ (65%)

People in the Midwest (73%)

Democrats (65%)

Women (72%)

 Source: 2011 Harris Poll National Quorum

The poll results also indicate that Americans are making use of their libraries at steady or increasing rates. Sixty-five percent of those polled said they had visited the library in the past year, including visits in person (62 percent), over the phone or online. Women (72 percent) are significantly more likely than men (58 percent) to fall into this category, especially working women, working mothers, and women aged 18 to 54. The adults most likely to have visited the library also include those who are most highly educated and those who earn the highest incomes.

Among those who visited the library in person, fully 80 percent said that the number of in-person visits they have made has either increased or stayed about the same in the past six months. Eighty-two percent of those who telephoned the library in the past year reported that their telephone use of the library has either increased (16 percent) or stayed the same (66 percent) in the past six months. This proportion reflects a notable increase from a year earlier, when 73 percent of those who telephoned the library reported increased or steady usage over the prior six months. 

Notably, 90 percent of those who accessed their public library via computer reported that their computer use of library services has either remained the same (58 percent) or increased (32 percent) during the recent past, an increase from 85 percent a year earlier.

Overall, 58 percent of those surveyed said they had a library card. Among those with a card, the largest group was, again, women, especially working women and working mothers. College graduates and those with household incomes of more than $100,000 were also well represented among card holders, according to the survey (see Table 1, above).

Survey shows strong satisfaction with library services

Large majorities of adults agreed with five statements assessing the value of the public library as an institution in their community. The Harris Poll revealed that the most powerful message pertains to the democratic nature of libraries, as they level the playing field for all Americans in the provision of materials free of charge.

Read the entire report.