Public library use is growing all across the United States. The federal Institute of Museums and Libraries (IMLS) reported in 2016 that “more than 171 million registered users, representing over half of the nearly 311 million Americans who lived within a public library service area, visited public libraries over 1.35 billion times in 2016”. Public libraries were used more than 1.3 BILLION times in that year alone. That’s a huge amount of library use in the age of Google, Facebook, smartphones, and 300 channels on TV.
Have you ever heard the term “life hack”? Coined in 2004 by technology writer Daniel O’Brien, a life hack refers to a strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one’s time and daily activities in a more efficient way. Life hacks can save you time, money and aggravation — to use a video game metaphor, they are the hidden cheat codes for going about your everyday business.
Wise investors know a good deal when they see it, which is why so many people who are smart and rich love their public library. It’s simple, really, if you consider what the average U.S. household pays for library services (~$7.50/month) and put that next to a public library’s vast offerings, the point is obvious. For under ten dollars you get thousands of books, music, movies, wholesome activities for kids, very expensive market research databases, and a much, much more.
Local libraries can enhance their services as an essential information provider for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs, turning librarians into heroes that help grow local economies and new jobs. In the last 30 years, nearly all net new jobs have been created by small businesses. Public libraries provide service to small businesses 2.8 million times each month, according to the OCLC report How Libraries Stack Up, verifying how important libraries are to small business success. As an example, the Free Library of Philadelphia by itself was reported to have provided over $4 million in direct support to local businesses.
Are you one of those people who spend all day at your current job dreaming about running your own business? You have a surefire product or service idea… but it’s just an idea. Normal people don’t just start a company, right? And besides, who would even know where to start?
Teen volunteers saved summer at my library. With their help, I was able to put on large-scale messy shaving cream painting projects, sign up more families for summer reading, prepare construction vehicle felt pieces for future storytimes, gather ideas for tween programs, and so much more. Teen volunteers lend their time and abilities to the library, making our libraries and the communities we serve all the better for it.