- 50% of all library users go on to buy books by an author they were first introduced to at the library;
- 20% of library users are “power patrons.” They visit the library at least once a week, borrow all types of media, and are active buyers of books and other media, including e-books;
- Power patrons are more likely to vote at a higher rate than other patrons; and,
- Power patrons are “influencers” who spread the word about books, visit both online and brick and mortar bookstores, and are more likely to purchase specific books they’ve borrowed from the library.
Why is this news important?
Here’s why: There’s a common myth out there, especially among some publishers, that every book sold to a library translates into “lost” sales to private citizens. I addressed this myth—showing how it was just wrong— way back in May of 2010 when a particular Hi & Lois cartoon made an odd connection between library use and shuttered book stores:
It would have been more accurate to show Lois ordering a book online and then passing a shuttered book store. Libraries and book stores co-exist just fine. It’s the Internet Age that is fundamentally changing the publishing and bookseller communities, and the economy, of course, is not helping.
And speaking of the economy, it’s true that public library usage goes up during tough times; but lack of a library certainly doesn’t mean that people with tight budgets can suddenly start buying books, newspapers and magazine subscriptions; or reconnect their home Internet service. And what about those folks struggling even during good times?
Benjamin Franklin knew how important access to books and ideas was to the young nation. Along with others, he founded the nation’s first subscription library, The Library Company of Philadelphia. His lending library lays claim to being the predecessor to today’s public library. The motto of The Library Company is the Latin “Communiter Bona profundere Deum est,” which translates as “To pour forth benefits for the common good is divine.” (Today, apparently, the “common good” means “socialism” in some circles, as this satirical blog post on the same Hi & Lois cartoon confronts.)
While some publishers may believe libraries cut into sales, most authors know how important libraries are to promoting their books, connecting them with readers, and ultimately driving their book sales.
Whatever form books take in the future, I’m betting that publishers and booksellers find a way to survive and thrive. And I’m betting that the library will be there to share that new wealth of literature, entertainment, and political and social commentary. For as the Patron Profiles study shows, it will not only be good for democracy, it will be good for the economy.