Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
More people use them than you may realize.
If you don't regularly (or ever) use your neighborhood library, you may be surprised to learn how many other people do. According to a new Pew survey, nearly half of Americans aged 16 or older – 48 percent if them – have visited a public library or book mobile in the past year.
Even more surprising: 90 percent of these same people say their community would be impacted if the library closed (suggesting that a lot of folks either like knowing that the library is there, even if they don't use it, or they recognize that people who do have few alternative resources). From the survey:
Similarly overwhelming majorities agreed that public libraries "play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed," in promoting literacy, and in improving the quality of life in communities. Women, minorities, the unemployed, and people from lower-income and less-educated families were also the most likely to value library services as "very important."
Pew did not ask the question that would gauge the willingness of all these people to really rally behind libraries: Would they be willing to pay higher taxes to keep them open?
Still, librarians are probably smiling.