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5 Planning Tips Based on the Latest Pew Library Survey

pewchartGood news! Americans do value their public libraries, according to the latest report from the Pew Research Center.


But while two-thirds of Americans still visit libraries to borrow books, 80% say libraries should offer programs to teach people how to use digital tools.


The study provides several insights that can help libraries become even more relevant to their communities. As you work on your next three or five-year plan, you’ll find it worthwhile to delve into the details of this report, which will help guide your investment decisions.


Let’s look at a few that could impact your planning.


  • Add Digital Skills Programs: In addition to the strong demand for digital skills programs, 37% of Americans say libraries help them understand what information they can trust. This is a significant increase from 2015, when just 24% of Americans responded in this way. Many libraries already offer programs covering how to conduct research using library databases and how to use the Internet to apply for a job. But they should also consider adding programs especially for children and senior citizens, to help them learn how to use computers, smartphones and apps.


  • Embrace the Maker Movement: Half of Americans also say their public libraries should invest in new creative technologies such as 3-D printers, a finding that indicates strong support for adding a Makerspace to your library.


  • Update and Promote the Website: Fewer people said they visited their public library’s website in the previous 12 months. However, half of those who did used a mobile device, up from 39% in 2012. In addition, 58% of website users searched the library catalogue, while 44% conducted research or got homework help. There are likely several reasons why library websites aren’t attracting visitors. There may be low awareness in the community, or the site simply isn’t friendly for mobile users. A website update can be an expensive and time-consuming project, but it may be necessary, especially for older websites. If you do embark on such a project, be sure your new site is responsive and mobile-ready. Another way to improve traffic is to launch a marketing campaign aimed at building awareness.


  • Promote eBooks: There’s also a clear need for public libraries to do a better job of marketing their library eBook programs. Only 44% of Americans know that their public libraries loan out e-books, despite the fact that 90% of libraries have such programs.


  • Non-Users: Nearly 20% of Americans have never been to the library. According to the Pew study, non-users are often male, 65 or older, Hispanic, Black, high-school graduates or less, or living in a household earning less than $30,000. Community outreach programs can be effective in reaching diverse and underserved populations. Consider forming partnerships with local community leaders, businesses, and schools, and creating new programs based on the needs of specific population segments.


These are just a few of many findings in the report, which is worth reviewing in greater detail. You can read it here.


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