MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXVI No. 1
September / October 2013
Not Blameless, But Not to Blame
Report to the President, MIT and the Prosecution of Aaron Swartz
Regretted Omission
Newsletter Editorial Board Elections
Initial Thoughts
The MIT Physics Department's
Experience with edX
My Experience Teaching 3.091x
Pauline Maier
Students and Institute Governance
Creating a Culture of Caring: MIT's First Institute Community and Equity Officer
Resolution for Presentation to the MIT Faculty: "Establish a Campus Planning Committee"
The HASS Exploration (HEX) Program
Request for Preliminary Proposals
for Innovative Projects
Nominate a Colleague for the MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program
Teaching this fall? You should know . . .
Disturbed by Abelson Report
Praising America's Public Libraries
Class of 2017 Enrolled Students: Admissions Statistics
U.S. News & World Report: Ranking the Top 10 Engineering Graduate Schools
U.S. News & World Report: Ranking the Top 10 Business Graduate Schools
Printable Version


Praising America's Public Libraries


To The Faculty Newsletter:

In his article entitled “How Online Education Might Impact the Future of Mathematics Departments,” published in the May/June 2013 issue of the MIT Faculty Newsletter, Professor Daniel Stroock offers his perceptions of America’s public libraries:

Ever since Andrew Carnegie provided every large city in America with a library, vast reservoirs of information have been available to the general public. However, only a small fraction of the population even attempts to tap those reservoirs, and only a small fraction of those profit from their efforts.”

I write not to comment on the merits of Professor Strook’s position regarding the future of mathematics departments, but to offer an alternative perspective on the use and value of America’s public libraries.

In fiscal year 2012 , the Boston Public Library hosted more than 10,000 public programs, lent out more than 3.8 million books and audiovisual materials, and received more than 7.8 million visits to its Website. In the same year, the Boston Public Library helped more than 37,000 Boston residents sign up for library cards, hosted more than 800,000 free computer sessions, and had more than 3.4 million people pass through its doors. Over a decade ago, the Boston Public Library began digitizing its out-of-copyright books, and in 2011 became host for the Library for the Commonwealth, a statewide digital library. The BPL is a key player in the development of the Digital Public Library of America (

Nationwide, in 2010 58% of Americans 16 years and older had library cards and 80% said borrowing books was a very important service libraries provide. Americans go to school, public, and academic libraries more than three times more often than they go to the movies. Public libraries circulated 2.46 billion materials in 2010, an average of more than eight books a year for every American. Public libraries made 18.5 million eBooks available for circulation, and eBook readers were available for checkout at 39% of public libraries. Almost 89% of public library outlets now offer wireless Internet access, and more than 60% of libraries report offering the only free Internet access in their communities (

America’s public libraries continue to offer highly valued and heavily used services – in person and online – to the population of the United States. As my public library colleagues like to say, “check one out.”

Ann J. Wolpert
Director of Libraries

Back to top
Send your comments