Annual Report: Advancing Our Research Agenda

The library advocacy ecosystem has limited awareness of what Americans think about libraries, librarians, and taxes.

The library advocacy ecosystem has limited awareness of what Americans think about libraries, librarians, and taxes. With the 2018 release of the From Awareness to Funding study by OCLC, we have received a recent snapshot of voter attitudes. But our industry’s knowledge and understanding of what motivates and influences Americans about library funding is alarmingly limited.

Our mission is to advance an open-access research agenda that is focused on voter and public perception of taxes for libraries, and not on what the user experience (as users) of libraries is. We are committed to publishing the results and outcomes of all of our research and projects in order to support the entire profession. We are partnering with academic institutions and allied organizations to advance a research agenda that is focused on library funding as well as voter and public perception of library issues and librarians. 

  • Polling about Voter Attitudes of Libraries and Librarians
  • Understanding the Attitudes of Elected Officials about Libraries
  • Demonstrating Public Library Impacts Across Society
  • Understanding the School Library Policy Landscape
  • Mapping School Library Funding and Outcomes
  • Developing Current School Library Collection Standards
  • Understanding and Modeling the Funding Framework for Libraries

In 2020, a core part of our research agenda is to help library advocates and activists move beyond storytelling to include actionable data and insights about the impacts of library services and librarianship on communities, schools, and campuses.

Download the entire 2019 Annual Report today!

Library Funding Map 

In 2019, the EveryLibrary Institute worked with the Syracuse University School of Information Studies to create a new and comprehensive study of the “Return on Investment” (ROI) for communities from their public libraries. This collaborative project between researchers and practitioners has the goal of developing, maintaining, and expanding an open-access interactive online platform that increases understanding ROI. Almost all ROI studies focus on economic factors, such as dollar value, and those that try to investigate ROI more broadly, such as through relationships between library use and educational activities, often rely on interviews or testimonials, making systematic comparisons challenging. The current map includes data at local, state, and national levels; identifies major factors influencing ROI, including similarities and disparities among libraries; and fosters collective impact communicating the value of libraries in the 21st century.

Library Funding Rate Changes Over Time

A companion project to the ROI study is our new open-access data mapping tool “Library Funding Rate Changes Over Time”.  This project visualizes library funding changes between the years 1996 and 2016 using available IMLS data. In presenting this data we are seeking to explore the rate of change of library funding year over year. By understanding this information we can begin to understand the stability or instability of library funding as well as explore the effects of library governance, local socio-economic indicators, and other factors that may or may not influence changes in library funding.

Crime and Libraries Report

In 2019, we wanted to actively question and engage a common story in library advocacy circles that libraries are a key component in reducing crime rates and improving recidivism rates. The story that is often told is that access to libraries and literacy services reduced the crime rate in a community. While this seems logical, our question here at the EveryLibrary Institute is whether it is also provable.

In our “Crime and Libraries Report,” we explored the data around library funding, its impacts on literacy, and the correlating effect on crime to demonstrate that there is a direct connection between libraries, literacy, and crime in the United States. Adults with low literacy skills are far more likely to be under- or unemployed and therefore more likely to turn to criminal activities for financial survival. Children of parents with limited literacy skills are more likely not to graduate high school and end up in the criminal justice system.

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In this paper, we show how public and school libraries can positively impact reading and literacy levels and help reduce crime in their communities. We call on educational leaders and elected officials to recognize that public and school libraries are community anchors and centers of literacy education. Finally, we propose policy and funding frameworks that could lead to lower rates of crime and incarceration.

This paper is the first in a series focused on demonstrating the impact of public and school libraries across society. When policymakers outside of libraries need to consider integrating properly funded libraries as solutions to community or educational problems, these must be the research to back it up. In 2020 we plan to continue our collaborations with organizations and institutions as well as to conduct original research and scholarship to consider the conventional wisdom of library advocacy narrative.