According to a recent Gallop poll, in 2019, more Americans visited a public library than to a movie theatre.
“Visiting the local library remains by far the most common cultural activity Americans engage in,” the website Literary Hub stated.
The poll showed that American adults visited the library 10.5 times in 2019 compared to 8 times or less of visiting concerts, plays, national parks, museums, casinos, theme parks, or zoos. Women visit libraries twice as much as men, and adults in low-income households use the public library more than high-income adults.
In my opinion, the Gallop poll was very telling on two points. First, lower-income families rely on the public library and its various services (computers, internet service, DVD rental, research materials, books, e-books, CDs, and digital music services) are free to use to anyone who holds a library card, which can be obtained at no cost. In today’s world, technology, rentals and streaming services, and trips to the bookstore are outside many people’s household budgets.
The public library offers not only books, DVDs, and CDs to check out, but the Hoopla digital service allows library card holders to watch movies and television programs, read e-books, and listen to streaming music. And it is free of charge.
We are lucky to have five public libraries in our community – Winona, Duck Hill, Kilmichael, Vaiden, and Carrollton/North Carrollton, and I applaud our local elected officials for continuing their commitment to financially supporting our local libraries. Not everyone can afford to have a computer in their home or internet service. These days, you need both to do school research projects and even to apply for a job.
Also, with our local schools efforts to get all elementary schools reading at grade level, having access to books, especially during the summer months, plays a large role in our students’ success.
Second, for those of us living in rural communities, activities for adults and children aren’t as plentiful as in large cities. We do not have a movie theatre in Carroll and Montgomery counties. In rural communities, local entertainment is usually provided by the schools, churches, and civic clubs and organizations. We are blessed with the Montgomery County Arts Council and their productions, wonderful recreational sports parks, and unique adventure spots like Old Mountain Outdoor Adventures and Piney Hills ATV Park.
For parents of small children, a trip to the public library is an adventure, and our local libraries do so much to give these children activities throughout the year – movie times, special programs, Christmas pajama parties, Summer Reading Programs -- in which to participate.
My mother was a voracious reader, and because I was the youngest, after my sisters started to school and I was still waiting my turn, Momma and I would drive to the First Regional Library in Hernando and spend hours browsing the hundreds of books, finally leaving with a pile to be read at home. It was these library days with Momma that not only gave me a lifelong love of reading but of the public library.
These days, it is easy to hand a child a tablet or mobile phone, and those things will occupy him for hours. Even though that is the easy thing to do – I am guilty of it myself – but studies show it is detrimental on a child’s development. One study reported that 40 percent of children spend 30-plus hours a week looking at a mobile device or tablet.
From my personal experience as a parent, watching adults play with toys on YouTube is absolutely fascinating to a six year old. He can watch it for hours. Now, he can’t sit through worship service without telling me he is bored, but he can watch strange people playing with action figures for hours.
I would much rather my son fall into his imagination while reading a good book like I did while growing up, but technology is a central part of the world these days. Banning it from my home would be as traumatic on my husband and I as it would be on my son. All in moderation I guess.
If you haven’t visited your public library, I urge you to stop by. Just like between the cover of a good book, the library has an entire world of entertainment inside. And it won’t cost you anything to participate.