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Gov't Leaders Say Providing Internet Connectivity Is the Most Important Role of the Public Library

Gov’t Leaders Say Providing Internet Connectivity Is the Most Important Role of the Public Library

A survey conducted by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) in partnership with the Aspen Institute and the Public Library Association (PLA) has assessed the opinions of nearly 2,000 administrative officers and local government leaders on the current role of the public library; their responses once again emphasize the growing role of the modern-day library as a technological hub.

"The goal of this research was to understand how public libraries can be leveraged to advance community goals and how government agencies can partner with library leaders to better engage, inform, and empower residents," ICMA said.

Over 73 percent of respondents said that the public library's main role in the community should be to provide community members with high-speed Internet access.

Other priorities, the respondents said, include providing community members with:

  • Digital literacy (65%)
  • Early childhood education (65%)
  • Primary and secondary school attainment (59%)
  • Online learning/virtual learning (52%)

When asked who these services are most important to, respondents said families and students are the community members most likely to take advantage of them on a consistent basis.

"Increasingly, libraries serve as hubs of information and community resources—a place for people to learn, create, access services, and engage with one another. Through ICMA's recent survey and related activities, we are documenting the innovative ways in which public leaders are leveraging their local libraries to build stronger communities. The opportunities and lessons shared by our members will help inform leading practice and the evolution of public libraries nationwide," said ICMA Executive Director Marc Ott about the survey results.

The survey revealed that many government leaders believe libraries should be receiving more funding to strengthen them as community resources. Only 53 percent of respondents, a narrow majority, said they believe their libraries receive adequate funding.

According to Amy Garmer, Director of the Aspen Institute's Dialogue on Public Libraries, this survey should indicate to government leaders that leaders of public libraries deserve a seat at the table during discussions that involve the community for the benefit of the community as a whole.

"Combining the knowledge and resources of library leaders with those of local government leaders would strengthen communities and help to readily address priorities in areas such as education, workforce and community development, and access to broadband and digital literacy skills," she said.

As it stands, the survey reveals that current communications between library leaders and government leaders is varied. 

While 30.4 percent of respondents said they communicate with a chief librarian/library director at least once a week, 22.4 percent said they communicate with those same individuals very rarely or never.

Read the full survey here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

1/18/2017

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