“Mothers are outliers in their enthusiasm for libraries and their use of libraries for their own purposes, like visiting the library, checking out books, using library websites and connecting to libraries with mobile devices,” concludes a report by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, which Rainie directs.
It turns out that 94 percent of mothers surveyed contend that libraries are important to the community, 82 percent have library cards and 73 percent of them visit the library, compared with 53 percent of the overall population. More than half of mothers surveyed visit library websites, and nearly half use computers at the public library, the Pew research reports.
Pew’s research is part of an ongoing project to study libraries and their patrons in the digital age. Those most recent figures, gleaned from a survey of 2,252 Americans ages 16 and above, are encouraging but hardly a call to stop the presses, until one considers what is driving those numbers.
Here is more from the full report:
The importance parents assign to reading and access to knowledge shapes their enthusiasm for libraries and their programs:
- 94% of parents say libraries are important for their children and 79% describe libraries as “very important.” That is especially true of parents of young children (those under 6), some 84% of whom describe libraries as very important.
- 84% of these parents who say libraries are important say a major reason they want their children to have access to libraries is that libraries help inculcate their children’s love of reading and books.
- 81% say a major reason libraries are important is that libraries provide their children with information and resources not available at home.
- 71% also say a major reason libraries are important is that libraries are a safe place for children.
Almost every parent (97%) says it is important for libraries to offer programs and classes for children and teens.
What American parent wouldn’t like the idea of a place that can help their kids get ahead? There is a section later in the report that notes people with incomes under $50,000 say the library is more important.
These findings lead to several other questions:
1. Why are fathers behind in seeing the value in libraries? Is this because mothers still tend to have primary childcare responsibilities?
2. If mothers (and fathers) are likely to see the value of libraries, this also suggests there are large segments of the population who don’t use library or see much value in it. Who exactly are these people and why do they have these views?
3. While there is plenty of research about the achievement gap in education, how much do libraries help close this gap?