Libraries offer technology opportunities

Thanks to Mary Ann Van Cura for sending me the US IMPACT Public Library Study, which studies the use and results of this use in libraries throughout the nation. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a former librarian. So I’m predisposed to think they’re great – but now I have a study to back me up. Or as the study reports…

In a world increasingly defined by technology, the public library is one of the widest bridges to the Internet and computers, not only for those who cannot afford their own connection, but for those who find the library is an easier, faster, friendlier, or more effective way to use these tools. In 1996 only 28 percent of libraries had public Internet access, now, thanks in large part to public policy, almost all libraries offer Internet access to patrons.

Who’s online at the library?

It also reports that 45 percent of the 169 million visitors to public libraries connected to the Internet using a library computer or wireless network during their visit and 44 percent of people in households living below the federal poverty line ($22,000 a year for a family of four) used public library computers and Internet access. Nearly everyone goes online at the library. Some folks have an Internet connection, even broadband, at home – but maybe it’s not fast enough, or there aren’t enough computers at home or the patron wants help from the librarian. Some folks don’t have access at home. Youth (ages 14-24) make up the greatest user base – but adults (ages 45-54) and seniors (65 and older) are catching up.

What are they doing?

The study also looks at what patrons are doing online. Here is the rank of library Internet use by subject (tracking how many patrons participate in the following):

Social connection – 60%
Education – 42%
Employment – 40%
Health & Wellness – 37%
Government & Legal – 34%
Community Engagement – 33%
Managing Finances – 25%
Entrepreneurship – 7%

One thing the report notes is that the role of librarian has expended as people do more and more online and therefore more and more in the library. Librarians teach you how to use the tools, how to assess information (information literacy) but they also help you find a job, get medical information and do homework. It’s been a while but I’ve spent enough time on a reference desk to know that you provide these services and more. So if you’re a community leader it makes sense both to make sure your local librarians and well informed (so if you have program targeting patrons, tell your local librarian) and to make sure that you’re talking to your librarians about patron trends. The report recommendations reflect this dual role of librarians.

Recommendations

  • State and local government should include libraries in comprehensive broadband deployment and adoption strategies.
  • Business and government agencies should engage libraries in economic and workforce development strategies.
    State and local education reform initiatives should partner with and invest in public libraries to broaden educational opportunities for K-12 students and adults.
  • Public and private health officials and organizations should support the public library as a partner in disseminating health and wellness information and as a resource for future health communications research.
  • Federal, state, and local government agencies should support libraries as points of access for eGovernment services.
  • Support technology services that build communities.
This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Policy, Research by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

1 thought on “Libraries offer technology opportunities

  1. Pingback: Libraries essential to job seekers « Blandin on Broadband

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