Over the last few years in the UK we’ve seen funding to public services cut more than ever before, and libraries, particularly community ones have been on the front line as the axe has fallen. We’ve never had so many libraries under threat, and it’s left many asking whether libraries still have an important role in the community. Some have even claimed that with the Internet, the library isn’t as essential as it was before.
“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” ~ Neil Gaiman
Now the Carnegie Trust has surveyed UK residents as part of the Shining a Light initiative, getting a snapshot of each country that makes up the United Kingdom, to find out who uses the library and just how essential people think the library is to their community and this report smashes the idea that libraries are outdated, proving they are essential for many people!
Of all those surveyed, half said that they use their local library sometimes. That’s a lot of people, even if they aren’t using the library regularly, it is there when they need it. For regular users of the library this number does fall. Around two in five people use their library every single month, we can assume these people are borrowers, regularly taking and returning books to the library. However, even those who didn’t use the library themselves, understood the importance of having it as part of the community. Around 75% of all those surveyed thought that the library was an important and essential addition to the community, even those who didn’t use the library.
Our message to those who want to close libraries!
And we may think of libraries as being a place to borrow books, but they are so much more than that. Over half of those surveyed were aware of what their library offered and felt they would use the service more if it was better promoted. In fact, around 20-30% of library users, never borrow books and use libraries for different services.
The report actually showed that library usage is up in many areas in recent years, and showed how they have learned to adapt and evolve services to remain current and needed in the community. The report makes essential reading for anyone who is protesting the closure of their own library, and shows again that libraries are an essential part of British life and must be protected by local authorities. The full Shining a Light report by the Carnegie Trust can be found here.
If your community was cut off from the rest of the country, how would you access your new and favourite books?
Back in the 1930s, after the Great Depression, there was a lack of funds for public services such as libraries. In around May 1936 the American Library Association estimated that over a third of all Americans had no real access to public libraries.
The Pack Horse Library Project was started in 1935 to help tackle this problem in the area of the Appalachian Mountains. This area of Kentucky, USA was particularly inaccessible back then, with over 30% of the rural community there being illiterate. The poorer communities realised that literacy was one way out of poverty so they banded together to donate books, and facilities to store books.
With help from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) the Digital Library has been available since September and is free for all users.
The library boasts an extensive range of books, along with manuscripts, videos, artworks, maps, and audio, and in seven different languages. Users can search for content in various ways: through simple searches of type of item, topic, etc, or with the interactive maps and timelines.