Libraries: A Good Thing

December 31, 2013

When you cannot locate information on Google, what does one do? Some people just guess? Others use spreadsheets and make up data? Quite a few people go to the library. Well, “quite a few” may be one of those unsupported factoids about modern life.

Navigate to Pew Research and check out the outfit’s most recent report How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities. You can find it at for now.

The report contains good news and bad news. Here’s a positive finding:

91% of Americans who have ever used a public library say it is not difficult to find what they’re looking for, including 35% who say it is “very easy.”

On the other hand, the Pew Report says:

“54% of Americans have used a public library in the past 12 months, and 72% live in a “library house hold.”

If accurate, this statement identifies a Pew sampling issue and underscores the need to reach the 46 percent of folks who don’t use the library more than once in a blue moon.

Since my team started Marketing Library Services in the late 1980s, library marketing has remained an important job. I sold this publication to Information Today and the MLS information service, like library marketing itself, remains mostly unchanged over the last 20 years. That in itself makes clear one aspect of the library market: It is slow moving.

I noticed the last time I used our local library that useful online resources were no longer available to patrons. The budget pressures on libraries are significant. The vendors of commercial databases have priced their commercial reference products so that  only a few institutions can afford them.

The Pew Report does little to lessen my concern that easily distorted free Internet information is creating a false sense of “research security.” Libraries are an asset. I want to see them become more important, offer more commercial database access, and communicate that there is more to research than letting Google’s personalized research provide information automatically.

Here’s hoping for a more vital role for libraries in 2014.

Stephen E Arnold, December 31, 2013


One Response to “Libraries: A Good Thing”

  1. Pew Report on Libraries Underscores Opportunities for Information Professionals to Lead the Charge in Asserting the Value of Librarians and Libraries | Answer Maven on January 2nd, 2014 9:00 am

    […] the lazy browsing I did yesterday I came across this post from Beyond Search, “Libraries: A Good Thing.” Stephen Arnold is a long time contributor to the information industry, think in terms of […]

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