Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Public Libraries: Diverse Picture of Patrons Emerges

Public Libraries: Diverse Picture of Patrons Emerges Here, Elsewhere
Published: Saturday, August 28, 2010, 7:39 AM Elizabeth Hovde, Oregonian columnist Oregon Live

The American Library Association has a better idea about who uses libraries. A recent report by the University of Washington, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found that nearly a third of Americans age 14 or older used a public library computer in 2009. It also found that the recession is fueling demand for Internet access and job-finding help in libraries. And while teens are libraries' heaviest computer users, 44 percent of people living below the poverty line used computers and the Internet at their libraries.

A 2008 Harris Poll found that 68 percent of Americans had a library card and that 76 percent had visited a library in the year prior. Newer research shows that library usage is increasing and that the majority of users still go for the actual books, not computers or DVDs.

That large, diverse picture of library users helps me sort things out a bit. It's clear a lot of us -- those who can afford to pay for services, those who cannot and those who simply adore Emily Elizabeth and her enormous red dog Clifford -- still consider libraries a shared community asset worth visiting.

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