The American public no longer trusts its leaders to do what is right. People do not see their values reflected in Washington and have lost faith in the institutions that are supposed to represent them.

According to a July 2007 CBS News/NYT Poll, the percentage of Americans who think you can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” or “most of the time” has declined steadily from its peak after September 11th from 55% in 2001 to 24% in 2007. Similarly, a CNN/USA Today/Gallop Poll in January 2006 found that 32% of people trusted government to do the right thing “just about always” or “most of the time,” compared to 60% in October 2001.

In a March 2007 poll by The Pew Charitable Trusts, only 34% of Americans said that they believe government “cares about what people like me think.”

(Guidance for Writing Op-Eds, October 11, 2007, e-mail message to Taylor Willingham from Joe Goldman, AmericaSpeaks, October 11, 2007)

Almost half of the American questioned in the survey gave a grade of “A” to their community for maintaining well-run libraries, with another 29 percent giving them a “B”. Seventy-six percent say their public libraries are doing an excellent or good job, but only 43 percent think their local community government as a whole is doing an excellent or good job.

(Public Agenda. Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public and Leadership Attitudes about Libraries in the 21st Century. New York, NY: Americans for Libraries Council, 2006, 20.)

Libraries enjoy greater public trust than government and other public institutions and could be a leader in conducting community engagement activities that would restore the public’s faith in our democratic institutions.