Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Impact of Public Library Closings

Earlier this morning I was reading a report entitled "Why Public Libraries Close"conducted by researchers at Florida State University (June 30, 2008). Much of the contents is devoted to explanations of the research design, methodology, and an analysis of findings. What struck me, and summarized eloquently the centrality of libraries to community health and stability was the following observation:
"The socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of the population within the immediately surrounding 1 mile radius [of] the closed library tended to be poorer, less educated, and with more renters than homeowners when compared to the U.S. population as a whole...These characteristics are often associated with lower mobility and fewer alternatives for information access. Where these population characteristics prevail, closures could disproportionately impact potential library users who may need the public library more than most..."
This is yet another element of the story that libraries have to tell, to borrow again from Walt Crawford: their importance to under served communities as an immediate means of access to resources otherwise unavailable or available only tenuously.