Why Libraries?

If you're on this page, it may already be obvious to you that libraries are a great place to provide help for adults who are struggling to read. However, you may be in a position where you have to convince someone else why you should implement a program to support adult literacy at your library. Here are some great reasons why public libraries should do all they can to support adult literacy:

  • Public libraries are one of the first places many adult learners think of when they are ready to reach out for help.
  • 14% of the U.S. population can't read at or below the 5th grade level and 29% of the population can't read at or below the 8th grade level. That means, for example, that if you serve a community of 45,000 people about 6,300 are functionally illiterate and another 6,750 suffer from low literacy.
  • Many communities do not have literacy programs or Adult Basic Educations (ABE) programs, so there is nowhere nearby for adults who struggle with reading to get help. The communities that do have these types of programs though, often have long wait lists, which can be discouraging for adult learners looking for help. Public libraries have a wide reach: they serve 297.6 million people throughout the United States, a number that is equivalent to 96.4% of the total U.S. population (http://www.imls.gov/assets/1/AssetManager/PLS2010.pdf).
  • Libraries already have many of the materials adults need to begin their reading journey (not just books, but meeting rooms, librarians, computers, etc.)
  • Encouraging adult readers creates new library users. These new readers in turn teach their children to become readers and use the library. (Literacy is very much an intergenerational inheritable attribute.)
  • Libraries are also a great place to find volunteer tutors. Volunteer tutors typically love reading and hang out at libraries.
  • Adult literacy support fits in perfectly with the shifts we know are already happening in traditional library service. We are reinventing ourselves with the digital world, becoming more community centered and not just about books anymore. Helping adults read fits perfectly into the mission of the 21st-century public library and is just another way to remind even more people of our inextricable relevance.
  • The library has always been seen as a vital tool in the promotion of democracy and giving everyone access to the same information. This benefit, however, is useless to those who cannot read.
  • Starting an adult literacy program at your library is easier than it sounds (honestly!). It's been done before and this website will give you all the info you need to streamline the process and customize for your library.