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Library Corner

April 21, 2014

Pew study shows libraries important to most

Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project received a $1.4 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to study the role of libraries in users’ lives and in their communities.

The grant was for three years and consisted of three stages.

Stage One looked at the portrait of new technology adoption with a focus on ebook readers, tablet computers and the new challenges and opportunities that they bring to libraries.

Stage Two was completed last summer and focused on the changing world of library services and the choices libraries must make.

Stage Three looked at who does and does not use libraries. 

The typologies of library users were built around a large national phone survey that segmented library patrons based on user needs, experiences and their sense of opportunities that libraries provide. 

Basically, the participants were clustered into groups based on certain characteristics. For this report, groups were created based on their connection to libraries rather than the typical demographic information.

Pew found that library users are not a small niche in our society. Thirty percent of Americans 16 and older are highly engaged with public libraries and an additional 39 percent are in the medium engaged category.

People who have extensive economic, social, technological and cultural resources are also more likely to use and value libraries as part of those networks. Many of those who are less engaged with libraries tend to have lower levels of technology use, fewer ties to their neighbors, lower feelings of personal efficacy and less engagement with other cultural activities. 

Deeper connections with public libraries are often associated with key life moments such as having a child, seeking a job, being a student and going through a situation in which research and data can help inform decisions.

There are four broad levels of library engagement; high, medium, low and non-engagement (have never used a public library). The Pew Report divides people into nine groups that reflect the pattern of engagement with public libraries. 

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