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  • 1. YOU ASKED How Do Americans Use Public Libraries? 70 percent of Americans say that the COURTESY OF CAROL BREY-CASIANO public library improves the quality of life in their community BY CAROL BREY-CASIANO P ublic libraries are at the center 70 percent of Americans say that theCarol Brey-Casiano of American life. Public public library improves the qualityis currently an libraries help students with of life in their community. And 96information resource homework, help entrepreneurs percent of Americans believe that,officer with the U.S. manage businesses, provide busy because libraries provide free access toDepartment of State. parents with access to parenting information and resources, they playA past president of information, and offer senior citizens an important role in giving everyone athe American LibraryAssociation, the oldest up-to-date health information. Some chance to succeed.and largest libraryassociation in theworld, she has workedin public librariesfor 30 years, servingas director of publiclibraries in El Paso,Texas; Las Cruces,New Mexico; andOak Park, Illinois. WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES GOT A QUESTION ABOUT THE U.S.? Public libraries have many resources for immigrants. Here desk assistant Mani Neupane helps Shahla ASK US USING Mostafavi and her son Parsa Fallahi, 7, as they check out books at Gaithersburg Library in Maryland. YOUR PHONE. Mostafavi immigrated from Iran 10 years ago. She finds the library a useful place to learn English. BUREAU OF INTERNATIONAL INFORMATION PROGRAMS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
  • 2. YOU ASKED: HOW DO AMERICANS USE PUBLIC LIBRARIES? 2 Public libraries in the UnitedStates were first established in themid- to late 1800’s, when increasedinterest in public education andthe desire to share knowledge ledto broad public support for free © AP IMAGES/ INDEPENDENT-MAIL, KEN RUINARDlibraries. They were intendedto provide a way for people tocontinue their education after theyfinished school, and for that reason,the public library is often calledthe “people’s university” — a placewhere everyone can learn, with freeaccess to a wide variety of print andelectronic resources. Today, U.S. public libraries Elizabeth Darrah, left,offer computers with free Internet adults. Many libraries sponsor Summer of Anderson, Southaccess and other electronic resources. Reading programs that offer incentives Carolina, watches herAs more businesses and government to encourage patrons of all ages to 3-year-old daughteragencies require applicants to apply read during the summer. They also Rebekah reach for a book as her youngestfor jobs online, many public libraries sponsor cultural programs, such as daughter, 14-month-oldnow help patrons complete online author readings, art exhibits, book fairs Sarah Beth, looks at ajob applications, provide access to and other events to draw people in. book in the Andersonjob databases, and offer software or Public libraries also provide meeting County Library’s Scripps Howard Children’sother resources to help patrons create rooms and auditoriums for use by Library. The family wasrésumés. In fact, many U.S. public local community groups, in addition to attending a “story time”libraries provide the only free public rooms for individual and group study. event to encourageaccess to computers and the Internet Public libraries in the United children under the age of 6 to read.available in their communities. Wireless States are supported by local taxes;access is now offered at more than 80 they also receive some state and federalpercent of U.S. public libraries. funds. These funds are supplemented In a more traditional vein, public by Friends of the Library groupslibraries offer a wide variety of books and library foundations, and theseand other reading material — including nongovernmental sources of fundingsturdy “board books” for toddlers, have become increasingly important inillustrated picture books for children, the current economic climate as localnovels for young adults and books budgets tighten. According to a reportand magazines for adults on almost by international library cooperativeevery topic imaginable. To encourage OCLC, 31 percent of Americans agesreading and enhance literacy in their 14 and older say that the local publiccommunities, public libraries sponsor library has become more valuableprograms for all ages — from story to their community because of thetimes for children, to reading programs downturn in the economy.for youths and popular lectures for Please send suggestions for additional You Asked topics to YouAsked@state.gov. BUREAU OF INTERNATIONAL INFORMATION PROGRAMS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE