Pew Research Center shows 7 Surprising Facts about Libraries

Mantra Roy /

Seating via David Woo (mckln) on Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0On 30th June, the Pew Research Center published the results of their typology on Americans’ response to public libraries. With a nod to the ALA’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas, the results reveal exciting news about the role of libraries in American lives.

People 65 years and older have used the library a lot less in the past year than people in younger age groups. Americans ranging between 16 and 29 years have used the library as much as those older than them. Moreover, although 10% of Americans have never used the library, they consider it a valuable community resource. They believe that closing of libraries in the neighborhood is a major blow to community life because libraries inculcate the habit of reading and promote literacy.

Given the proliferation of e-Books and the discussions about the future of print books, the results demonstrate that only 4% of Americans are ‘e-Book only’ readers. Only 28% of Americans have ever read an e-Book and e-Book readers also read print books. Additionally, as the Survey results indicate, people prefer the two formats in different circumstances. People traveling prefer e-Books because they are portable and baggage restrictions don’t apply to them. Print books are ideal for reading to children and for sharing with friends and family. So, the two formats tend to be more complementary than competitive.

The contest between offering free e-Books through libraries and publishers’ fear of losing sales has been brought to rest by another surprising revelation. Active library users also tend to be the most active book buyers, print or e-Book. So, free e-Books in libraries do not actually drive down sale figures.

Reader’s Advisory services are as valued as ever, although in a different avatar. While librarians do not want anything to do with patrons’ borrowing records in order to preserve the patrons’ privacy, many patrons, that is 64% of responders to the survey, feel comfortable about receiving recommendations from the library staff based on their borrowing activity. This is an important point to note especially when there are so many online book-recommending services available today.  

Finally, the most important survey response that the Pew Research Center received was the polarizing divide between librarians’ views about using library spaces and book collections in the rapidly digitizing world. When asked if stacks and books should be removed or rearranged in favor of making space for tech-centers and cultural events, only 20% responded with an emphatic ‘yes’. 36% were firmly against such a proposition while 34% were ready to consider it.

For more details about the survey results, please visit: