Last month, Gallup released a story that had libraries high-fiving across the internet.
Gallup reported that “Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far. The average 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities.”
This was great news, and very validating to the professionals who work to bring library services to their communities. Did it also mean that the question of library relevancy was finally answered?
You tell me. A few days later, I was in a doctor’s appointment, and a nurse asked me what I do for a living. When I told her that I work with nonprofits, government agencies and libraries, her face adopted a wistful expression.
“Libraries,” she said. “Those are a dying breed, aren’t they?”
So I think it’s safe to say that no, the question of library relevancy is not answered.
Anyone who works in libraries will tell you that they get similar comments and questions all the time. Once, it happened to me during a dental cleaning, so I couldn’t even respond!
Don’t get me wrong: the Gallup story is great news for libraries. It’s awesome that people still use libraries at that frequency. But the pervasive perception is still that libraries are outdated, fading and not needed as much as they used to be.
This is not true, and many libraries are working hard to dispel those myths. For example, a recent article in the Detroit Free Press touted the things that Michigan libraries are doing to meet new needs and attract new customers.
The bottom line is that whether you are a library, nonprofit, government agency or any other type of organization, you can’t take for granted that people see you as relevant – even if they use your service! Telling your story continues to be critical to awareness and to your long-term success.