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Motter: Statistics prove library worth


I read with great dismay that certain members of the board want to use the Sun City Public Library space for “some other purpose not yet defined.” We moved here just a few years ago to assist with aging parents, and having a library so close (Bell Recreation Center) was an unexpected, but welcome benefit. My wife and I are avid library visitors, as are the dozens and dozens of different people we see there the 5-7 times per month we visit.

Now to learn that at least two board members have feelings of “disdain” that the library doesn’t pay rent is troubling. Disdain? Really? Despite the current economy, our public libraries remain one of the very few services that doesn’t encourage people to spend money. We’ve somehow seemed to survive for many years by giving away golf through reduced rates to non-residents, but clutch pearls, the library doesn’t pay rent. Oh my.

I hope Mr. McCurdy and Ms. Richtmyre, and perhaps others on the board, can re-evaluate their personal “disdain” for a non-rent paying public service and are enlightened enough to understand that even non-rent paying libraries provide invaluable research and access tools, are accessible by all members of our community and promote further opportunities through life-long learning.

Don’t take my word for it, The Pew Research center, which conducted a study of public libraries and how they support the communities where they are located found that 90% of Americans ages 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community, with 63% saying it would have a “major” impact. Asked about the personal impact of a public library closing, two-thirds (67%) of Americans said it would affect them and their families, including 29% who said it would have a major impact. Moreover, the vast majority of Americans ages 16 and older say that public libraries play an important role in their communities: 95% of Americans ages 16 and older agree that the materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed; 95% say that public libraries are important because they promote literacy and a love of reading; 94% say that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community; 81% say that public libraries provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere.

Americans strongly value library services such as access to books and media, having a quiet, safe place to spend time, read, or study; and having librarians to help people find information. Other services, such as assistance finding and applying for jobs, are more important to particular groups, including those with lower levels of education or household income. Women, African-Americans and Hispanics, adults who live in lower-income households, and adults with lower levels of educational attainment are more likely than other groups to declare all the library services we asked about “very important.” Adults ages 30-64 are also more likely than younger or older respondents to say many of the services are “very important,” as are parents with minor children.

Libraries are also particularly valued by those who are unemployed, retired, or searching for a job, as well as those living with a disability and internet users who lack home internet access: 56% of internet users without home access say public libraries’ basic technological resources (such as computers, internet, and printers) are “very important” to them and their family, compared with 33% of all respondents. Additionally, 49% of unemployed and retired respondents say they librarian assistance in finding information to be “very important,” compared with 41% of employed respondents; 47% of job seekers say help finding or applying for a job is “very important” to them and their families; 40% of those living with a disability say help applying for government services is “very important,” compared with 27% of those without a disability; 54% of Americans have used a public library in the past 12 months; and 72% live in a “library household.”

Furthermore, libraries support educational opportunities, preserve cultural heritage and history, provide access to necessary resources for marginalized communities, are integral to the political and social life of a community; and are a safe and reliable space for all.