Americans Still Love Libraries in The Digital Age

Holding a library card allows you to do so much more than just checking out books.

Feb 14, 2020

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Today's libraries go way beyond just borrowing books. A library card opens the door to a myriad of activities.

You can do yoga, see a movie, take a tech course, belong to a book club, attend a story time with your preschooler as well as take out books or other media like CDs or DVDs . It's no wonder that Americans love their libraries.

A new Gallup study shows that in 2019, Americans visited their local library more times than they attended movies. In fact, they went an average of 10.5 trips a year more than doubling the amount of live concerts or visiting national or historic parks. Trips to museums and zoos were even lower.

The study also showed women were twice as likely to go to libraries while men went to more sporting events, and parks.

Younger adults – ages 18 to 29 – went to the library more than older adults. College students could be utilizing the library for reference books, study space, or using computers for a job search. Or it could be that young parents go to the library for preschool programs. Drop your child off at story time and attend an exercise class. Or you could get a cup of coffee at the coffee bar as many public libraries see the appeal of making the library more of a bookstore experience. 

“It’s so nice because, even if you’re reading a magazine, you have a cup of coffee,” Jo Ann Cavallino told Newsday about her local Holtsville, New York library. “Or if it’s during lunch, and I’m in a rush, I can maybe grab something, and know it’s tasteful. I think it adds a lot to this library. It’s a nice place to come and relax.”

“It’s [the coffee bar] a great asset for the library because it’s a destination for our residents,” said James Olney, director of the Northport-East Northport Public Library in New York. “They often spend many hours here, and rather than having to go out to get food or refreshments, they can do so right on site.”

Many libraries are really kid-friendly according to Tree Hugger and feature kids' books , toys, child-sized tables and décor along with cool items like fish tanks. Some libraries even  lend out board games and give passes to museums or cultural events. They are great equalizers for lower income families who cannot afford to buy new books or toys for their kids.

Local libraries in Dallas, Texas distributes donated prom dresses, shoes and accessories in a program called Fairy Tale Closet. The library provides everything sans the pumpkin coach to make every girl feel beautiful at her prom.

Other libraries lend work attire for people looking for a job or tools to complete a home-repair. Private sharing libraries are also becoming a growing trend. But nothing really comes close to the appeal of the local library.

So, despite the increase in digital-based activities over the past two decades, the local library has retained its place as a go-to venue for both adults and children. The more we support them, the more services they will offer to our communities. So forget shopping for books on Amazon, go to your library to take out books, meet your neighbors, and maybe have a latte too.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.