Libraries present an interesting conundrum to policy makers and patrons alike. A Pew Internet study, for example, showed just how mixed-up the sentiments surrounding libraries can be, with reports from one survey stating that “95% of Americans agree that the materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed [and] 81% of Americans ages 16 and older say that public libraries provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere.” But at the same time, those very same survey respondents reported that “48% of Americans have visited a library or bookmobile in person in the past year, [and] 30% of Americans have visited a library website in the past year.”
So if we all agree that libraries are important centers of learning and provide services that individuals cannot get elsewhere, even if we ourselves do not make as much effort to visit a library on a regular basis, why is there such a budget problem for libraries?
One report coming from Australia’s educational system painted an even more alarming picture. According to the fifth annual Softlink Australian School Library Survey, there is a direct correlation between how well-funded and well-stocked a school library is, and how high the literacy rates and reading performance of the school’s student body are.
“It’s encouraging that the survey results demonstrate some stabilization of school library budgets in Australia,” Softlink’s Managing Director, Nathan Godfrey, said. “Budget allocations have stabilized, however we are not yet seeing any upward trends.”
“Many school libraries are operating under lean conditions, which makes it difficult for them to introduce digital innovations and resources which can influence learning and literacy outcomes.”
The report went on to investigate commonalities such as the link between highly trained library staff and student success, digital adoption in the schools and book checkouts, and more. Interestingly, mobile device use and after-school access to the libraries’ digital materials played a key role in this year’s findings.
According to the report, “This year, 43% of respondents said half or more of their student population owned a personal mobile device (iPod, iPad, smart phone or other tablet) a similar figure to 2013 (44%). The percentage of respondent schools that indicated they provide digital devices to students reduced from 58% in 2013 to 44% in 2014. This corresponded to a higher percentage of respondent schools that encourage BYOD use both inside and outside the classroom (from 14% in 2013 to 24% in 2014). In 2014, 13% reported that they encourage BYOD use at school but only outside the classroom and 19% indicated that personal device usage was not encouraged at their schools’. This year 27% of respondents indicated that they have a BYOT/BYOD strategy. This reflected a substantial increase of schools who have implemented a BYOT/BYOD strategy from 2013, when the result to the same question was 19%.”