“Open to All,” Public Libraries Remain One of the Better Uses of Taxpayer Dollars

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Clyde Scoles, Executive Director at Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, makes a keen case for libraries! Read the entire article here [The Blade].

When you visit a local library, you see librarians helping people who would not have any other way to use a computer or have a safe place to bring their children. I’ve stood outside the Sanger branch, watching adults and children waiting for the only county library with Sunday hours to open, so they can gain access to computers for employment, do homework, find a book, or have a comfortable, affordable place to work.

As schools reduce their budgets for their own libraries and shorten their classroom hours, children stream to the public library on weekends and after school. Retired teachers staff our homework centers, funded by our Library Legacy Foundation.

Some cities have not preserved their libraries. Surely it is a false economy not to preserve one of the finest community assets, which does not charge membership or credit-card fees or record one’s attendance.

Libraries collaborate with the U.S. Department of Labor to more effectively help job seekers

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According to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronical, librarians say that assisting job hunters is a natural extension of their role as information navigators (and I might add, supporters of their communities). Public libraries around the country have increasingly emerged as resource centers for a growing number of displaced workers, holding classes on resume writing and job interviewing, subscribing to specialized job databases, offering online prep courses for civil service and other exams, amassing materials on starting businesses, creating Web sites on career development and offering free career counseling. Recently, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Department of Labor announced a new partnership to more effectively help job seekers. An estimated 3.7 million Americans have found work with support from their public libraries, said IMLS Acting Director Marsha L. Semmel, citing a March 2010 study conducted by the University of Washington and sponsored by IMLS and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The report found that :

  • More than 77 million people age 14 and over used a library computer last year.
  • 30 million people used library computers to help address career and employment needs.
  • Among these users, 76 % searched for jobs online and 68 % went on to apply for a job or submit a resume.
  • 23 % used library computers to receive job-related training.
  • 3.7 million people reported finding work using a library computer.
  • 88 % of public libraries provide access to job databases and other job opportunity resources.
  • 67 % of libraries report that staff members helped patrons complete online job applications last year.
  • Nearly 90 % of public libraries offer formal or informal technology training to library patrons.
  • 67 % of libraries report they are the only provider of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities.

How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries: A Study

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The report, Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries (pdf), is based on the first large-scale study of who uses public computers and Internet access in public libraries, the ways library patrons use this free technology service, why they use it, and how it affects their lives. It was conducted by the University of Washington Information School and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. A few statistics from the report here (based on a 12-month period):

  • 40 percent of library computer users (an estimated 30 million people) received help with career needs. Among these users, 75 percent reported they searched for a job online. Half of these users filled out an online application or submitted a resume.
  • 37 focused on health issues. The vast majority of these users (82 percent) logged on to learn about a disease, illness, or medical condition. One-third of these users sought out doctors or health care providers. Of these, about half followed up by making appointments for care.
  • 42 percent received help with educational needs. Among these users, 37 percent (an estimated 12 million students) used their local library computer to do homework for a class.
  • Library computers linked patrons to their government, communities, and civic organizations. Sixty-percent of users – 43.3 million people – used a library’s computer resources to connect with others.

My personal favorite:

  • Nearly two-thirds of library computer users (63 percent) logged on to help others.

7 Ways Your Public Library Can Help You During A Bad Economy

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A plug for libraries! Taken from an article in the Consumerist online. See the original article with additional patron commentary and suggestions via consumerist.com.

Libraries are an excellent resource and they’re pretty easy to use. Don’t worry if you’re not a big reader, there’s lots more stuff to do at the library besides just checking out books.

1. You can get pretty much any book at the library: A book habit can be expensive. Even second hand books can add up if you read a lot. Even the smallest library can access inter-library loan, Worldcat, OCLC and other library loan services to get you even the most obscure and out of print material.

2. Yes, we have movies: Many libraries charge a nominal (1-2 dollar) fee for renting recent or “popular” titles. It’s something of a controversy in the profession, one side arguing all library services should be free, the other saying “We’re not a video store!”. I tend to fall on the side of free for all. In any case, the fee is often far less than what you’d pay for a rental at a chain video store, and the fees to to cover costs of processing and growing the video collection. If you’re looking for a rare film, perhaps older or on an obscure format (Betamax tapes are out there still) libraries can save you a ton compared to buying it on Ebay.

3. Kids Activities: Any library worth it’s salt offers a summer reading program for kids. Often with prizes, programs and events all summer long. Libraries also offer story times, arts and crafts, computer classes, movie nights and reading clubs for kids of all ages.

4. Save Money and maybe your life!: Libraries offer seminars in home buying, estate planning and even purchasing electronics and other big-ticket items. Libraries also offer free blood pressure screenings, programs about weight loss and exercise.

5. Make new friends: Library book clubs and book discussion groups are great ways to meet people. Some libraries even offer “mingling” events for single patrons.

6. Find a new job!: I can’t tell you how many times local employers have come in asking to post job listings or drop off materials about open positions. Many libraries offer resume writing workshops, computer training and even job fairs. College and University library job fairs are often open to the public.

7. Libraries listen to consumers!: We like to call them patrons, but they really do listen. Do you want a story time for kids after 5pm? Ask for it! Want more books about home finance or budgeting? Just ask! Libraries often go to great pains to assess what the community wants, letting us know directly is great. The complaint or suggestion of a patron carries a lot of weight with library directors and boards, so you are being heard.

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Photo Credit: Benzonia Public Library (Benzonia, Michigan)