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Part V. The Humanities in American Life

Section A. Humanistic Skills and Practices
Indicator V-1 Adult Literacy
Indicator V-2 Family Literacy
Indicator V-3 Book Reading
Indicator V-4 Creative Writing
Indicator V-5 Multilingualism
Indicator V-6 Adult Continuing Education
Section B. Public Libraries
Indicator V-7 Public Library Holdings
Indicator V-8 Use of Public Libraries
Indicator V-9 Internet Access at Public Libraries
Indicator V-10 Public Library Expenditures & Funding Sources
Indicator V-11 Number and Training of Public Librarians
Section C. Other Humanities Programs and Institutions for the Public
Indicator V-12 State Humanities Council Programs
Indicator V-13 Historic Site Visits
Indicator V-14 Art Museum Attendance
Section D. Public Attitudes toward the Humanities
Indicator V-15 Public Attitudes toward Literature
Indicator V-16 Public Attitudes toward Fine Arts


The indicators gathered here further attempt to gauge the strength of the humanities in the United States by examining the extent to which Americans engage in humanistic activities in their daily lives. Beginning with a consideration of such foundational skills as literacy and multilingualism, the indicators describe such practices as the reading of literature and the pursuit of humanistic interests through continuing education. They also review the condition and use of public libraries, which are the main point of contact with the humanities for many Americans and have also come to serve as the primary means of public access to the Internet.

The influence of the Internet on public participation in the humanities remains to be seen, as researchers look for systematic ways to measure how people engage in humanistic activities online. Such data as do exist regarding Americans’ use of the Internet to explore literature and art will be developed for presentation in any subsequent edition of the Humanities Indicators. In the meantime, the indicators here continue with the topic of public participation in the humanities by tracking trends in attendance at institutions such as art museums and historic sites, as well as looking at the role of state humanities council programs in supporting the humanities. Public perception of the place of the humanities in daily life is more difficult to assess. Nonetheless, the final section does attempt to shed some light on Americans’ attitudes toward such humanistic forms of expression as literature and art and their influence on society.

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