It may not be surprising to hear that a survey showed only 17 percent of Americans were in the middle of reading a book. But what may come as a surprise is that the survey was conducted in 1957.
Research in the mid-1950s revealed Americans were spending more money on radios, televisions and musical instruments and less on books, according to the American Library Association. Out of concern that people were reading less, National Library Week was eventually formed in 1958.
Sixty years later, the week devoted to libraries remains as important as ever. Between streaming TV shows, scrolling through social media, surfing the internet, listening to podcasts or playing games, our smartphones have given us more options for entertainment and distractions than anyone could have thought possible in the 1950s.
While a primary goal of National Library Week — to motivate people to read more — has remained constant for the past 60 years, libraries also have evolved with technology.
Beyond paperbacks and hardcovers, libraries’ catalogs expanded over the decades to include movies, CDs, audiobooks and e-books.
Since the early days of the internet, libraries have provided free access to local residents. While Wi-Fi may seem ubiquitous today, not everyone has a computer or device to hop online. However, thanks to library computers, anyone can send an email, apply for a job or file their taxes.
Of course, when it comes to technology, the library does more than just offer internet access. The Park County Library System’s free online resources range from e-books to encyclopedias to archives to databases to classes.
While we’re tethered to technology in so many areas of our lives, our local library also remains the best place to simply unplug and find a good book.
If you need a recommendation — or if you don’t have a library card — a librarian will be there to help. National Library Week is a good time to renew your interest in the local library if it’s been a while since you last visited.
This year’s celebration is especially meaningful for those of us at the Tribune, as The Friends of the Powell Branch Library group is helping to remember our late friend and colleague Gib Mathers with a journalistic writing contest in his honor. The two winning stories from the inaugural contest are on display at the Powell library this week and you can find the winning entry printed in Tuesday’s edition of the Tribune as well. Gib was a true friend of the library, and we’re glad to see his appreciation for a good story live on in a place he loved.