Through the Doors with Annie
Welcome back to Annie’s blog.
Everyone and their mother - including my own - sent me a link last month that was blowing everyone’s minds. A 2019 Gallup poll revealed that last year, more Americans visited the library than practically anywhere else including: the movies, zoos, museums, or other cultural locations. According to this poll, the average person visits a library roughly 10.5 times a year, double the next most frequent event- going to the movies, which they report doing only 5.3 times per year.
Even more interesting is that libraries are the most frequent destination no matter the demographic: gender, age (though the 18-29 group are the highest attendees, visiting libraries a whopping 15.5 times a month), parental status, income bracket… you get the idea.
But why? What is it about libraries that have - and keep - people coming through the door?
Libraries are temperate zones. Cool when it’s warm, warm when it’s cold, and dry when it’s wet out. This means that we’re a godsend for caregivers, winter and summer camps, and families who desperately need to get out of the house.
Working space - lots of chairs, tables, meeting, and study rooms. I’ve seen people practice for interviews, study for tests, write novels, tutor, and just use the space to watch movies. It’s the chance for a distraction-free space.
We’re full of resources. For people experiencing homelessness, libraries can be literal lifesavers. Want to get your first passport? Need assistance preparing your tax returns (and who doesn’t, I ask?) Could you use a hand muddling through college financial aid opportunities? Trying to figure out why 3D printers are so hot right now? And these are just DC Public Library's offerings, mind you. Some systems lend out bicycles, have seed libraries, or allow you to borrow cake pans.
I reread Gallup’s report over and over again. I marveled at it. I briefly considered sending it to the people who snidely told me that libraries were dying out. I thought about the people I see every day here: the children, the caregivers, the tweens and teens, and the adults, even those whose names I don’t know and can recognize only by face. They are regulars because this is a safe space for them - a place that can give them what they need.
Libraries are a destination. We might not be Disney World (and thank goodness for that), but we’re a place people like to go because of what we can give and do for people.
One of my favorite topics introduced to me at library school was the concept of the third place. It’s a theory by Ray Oldenburg from the late 1980s encapsulating that home is one’s first place, work is one’s second, and the third place is a community area: a social club, Starbucks, place of worship, or any other building fostering a sense of belonging. Libraries, of course, are the ultimate third place. Libraries are for everyone! proclaims my favorite library poster. Everyone is welcome. Programming for all. We’re here and we’re not going anywhere.
Take a look at DC Public Library’s community calendar, and you’ll see that we have a surplus, nay, plethora, nay, overabundance of in-house opportunities. Kids, tweens, teens, adults, and all ages. Storytimes. Movie screenings. Computer, yoga, and language classes. Karaoke. There’s something for everyone. Come on in. Pull up a chair. Stay awhile.