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How Libraries Stack Up

There have been mumblings in certain quarters recently suggesting that libraries are a waste of money in this day and age.

Pardon me, but I beg to differ; and this is why:

  • Two-thirds of Americans have a library card.

  • Every day 300,000 Americans get job-seeking help at their public library.

  • 13,000 public libraries offer career assistance. By comparison, the US Department of Labor offers 3,000 career centers.

  • Americans are six times more likely to visit a public library than they are to attend a live sporting event. US public libraries receive 1.4 billion visits annually.

  • Small business owners and employees use public library resources 2.8 million times each month to support their businesses.

  • 5,400 public libraries offer free technology classes - that's more technology training classes than there are computer training businesses in the US. Every day, 14,700 people attend free library computer classes - a retail value of $2.2 million.

  • Every day, 225,000 people use library meeting rooms at a retail value of $11 million. There are more meeting rooms available at public libraries than there are meeting rooms in all the US conference centers, convention facilities and auditoriums combined.

  • Most public libraries offer internet access - a vital resource for the approximate 1 in 4 people who do not have internet access at home.

  • Every day, US libraries circulate 7.9 million items. That's more materials than FedEx ships worldwide.

Lest these stats aren't enough to prove the point, let me leave you with a comment posted on BookBrowse's Facebook page yesterday:

"I am a librarian in a large system in New Jersey, and we are receiving an awful lot of angry calls. Today, when I answered the reference phone, I was told I am a waste of taxpayers money, among other choice words. As the budget problems in NJ get worse, more people (along with Gov Christie) seem to be targeting librarians as wasteful. Five years ago, this would be unheard of. You can imagine how I felt - I make around 40K, teach Excel, Word, Power Point, continue to develop more classes to improve job skills, am working on a state partnership to bring resume/job searching workshops here, develop ~20 adult programs out of thin air, run book groups .... am I a waste of taxpayers' dollars?" - Martha

After reading this, can you honestly tell Martha that she's a waste of money?

Davina Morgan-Witts
BookBrowse editor

"The richest person in the world - in fact all the riches in the world - couldn't provide you with anything like the endless, incredible loot available at your local library." - Malcolm Forbes

"Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest." - Lady Bird Johnson

"There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration." - Andrew Carnegie


Thankyou! I'm a public librarian in Texas - I think what I do is worthwhile but now I have the 'numbers' to back it up!
# Posted By Gina | 7/3/10 3:06 PM
I LOVE my local library!
# Posted By Tammie | 7/3/10 3:08 PM
Whenever I need a book, I check my local library first. Even if it is checked out, I can put it on hold and get it soon. My local libraries (I use two in the Los Angeles area) have the most user friendly computer programs for catalog search, holds, renewals, etc. It is a good as google or amazon without all the advertizing. A world without libraries would be just too hard to imagine.
# Posted By Judy Krueger | 7/3/10 8:55 PM
Thanks for the comments - people are also posting comments on our Facebook page:
# Posted By Davina - BookBrowse editor | 7/3/10 10:22 PM
Thanks Davina for posting this. It is unbelievable that there would be those who believe libraries and / or librarians are a waste of taxpayer money. I hope all librarians will be benefited from these statistics. Personally I love libraries AND librarians. If you are reading this and you're a librarian, I love and cherish you!!! You guys are tops in my book!!!
# Posted By Erika Wong | 7/4/10 12:54 AM
The very first place to which my Mother allowed me to walk unaccompanied was my local library. That experience began a life-long love affair with libraries and books. My present small town (Union, Missouri) library is extremely accomodating and has an amazing array of books and materials available for all. I now take my grandchildren to the library for pre-school story time and other activities. Public libraries are one of our greatest treasures and have enriched my life tremendously.
# Posted By Paula | 7/7/10 5:18 PM
As a NJ resident, I was one of an enormous group who contacted our governor & state leaders to make sure they did not cut all the library funding they planned on cutting from the budget. Thank goodness they put some back in, so we didn't lose our interlibrary loans, as well as some other funds. Our reading group depends on the interlibrary loans for the books we read, because there are people who can't afford to buy a book every month.
# Posted By Diane D. | 7/12/10 3:36 PM
I would be lost without the library!!! I also think everyone would be at a great loss if we did not have the library!
# Posted By carol | 7/15/10 10:10 AM
I love my public library (Evanston Public Library). The idea that public libraries would disappear is so depressing to me. Libraries are an essential part of any civilized countries
# Posted By Daniele R. Pickard | 7/15/10 1:35 PM
The librarians I know and have encountered are the most informed and helpful employees of ANY business. If it wasn't for the library in my neighborhood, I would not have access to a computer or all the books I have check out and read. PLEASE do not even think about saying they are a waste of money. How could anyone even image a world without libraries. Rita P.
Tulsa, OK
# Posted By rita p | 7/16/10 11:37 AM
I have always said that libraries and libriarians are the "un-sung heros" within communities. I've seen the effect of the budget cuts and am so disappointed! Some of my best memories from childhood are of libraries, and I tried to give my own children similar experiences.
# Posted By Gail | 8/12/10 6:48 AM
I have been a library patron since the age of 4, when I received my first card. Although I have plenty of books that I have purchased, I am at my favorite library several times a month, including three book discussion groups. Until recently, I never dreamed there were people who were actually against the public library system. Due to budget cuts my library system is closed on Sundays, closes earlier on Fridays, and only has the main library open on Thursdays, for 8 hours instead of the normal 11 hours. But the upside is that no one's job was eliminated.
# Posted By A.Jackson | 8/15/10 5:00 AM
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