By Frank Menchaca
Libraries, it seems, are under attack everywhere. Schools are eliminating librarians. College libraries receive less than three cents of every dollar spent on higher education. Marketing guru Seth Godin— and a chorus of others—has questioned the relevance of libraries in particularly stinging terms.
But there’s good news too. Ninety-five percent of Americans believe that public libraries play an important role in helping people live more successful lives. Students who visit their college libraries even once a semester are much more likely to return to school the following semester than those who do not. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, “the vast majority of readers aged 16-29 have read a print book in the last year.” And 60 percent of Americans under the age of 30 have used a library within the last 12 months.
The message is clear. Libraries—whether academic, municipal, or special purpose—are essential to the health, wealth, and education of the communities they serve. There’s no doubt libraries are challenged by funding cuts and bad press or that they need to beef up their marketing efforts, but the rumors of their death have been greatly exaggerated.