May 22, 2022

Pew Internet Releases New Findings About Mobile Access to Library Services and Library Web Sites

From the Latest Pew Internet Report, Mobile Connections to Libraries:

Some 13% of those ages 16 and older have visited library websites or otherwise accessed library services by mobile device. This is the first reading in a national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project on this subject. An earlier survey in 2009 by scholars at the University of Washington found that 6% of Americans ages 16 and older had used a mobile device to connect to a library site, so the incidence of this activity has doubled since then.

The report also presents some findings about library website usage.

In all, the Pew Internet Project survey finds that 39% of Americans ages 16 and older have gone to a library website at one time or another and, of them, 64% visited a library site in the previous 12 months. That translates into 25% of all Americans ages 16+ who visited a library website in the past year.

When they were on the sites, users sampled a wide variety of library services. Of those 25% of Americans who went to a library website in the past 12 months:

  • 82% of them searched the library catalog for books (including audiobooks and e-books), CDs, and DVDs.
  • 72% got basic library information such as the hours of operation, location of branches, or directions.
  • 62% reserved books (including audiobooks and e-books), CDs, and DVDs.
  • 51% renewed a book, DVD, or CD. Those ages 30-49 and parents of minor children are especially likely to have done this.
  • 51% used an online database. Those ages 18-29 are particularly likely to have done this.
  • 48% looked for information about library programs or events. Those ages 50-64 are especially likely to do this.
  • 44% got research or homework help.
  • 30% read book reviews or got book recommendations.
  • 30% checked whether they owed fines or paid the fines online. Those ages 30-49 are particularly likely to have done this.
  • 27% signed up for library programs and events.
  • 22% borrowed or downloaded an e-book.
  • 6% reserved a meeting room.


Useful info for sure but more research, especially by individual public library’s is a must.

  1. Given the monumental growth of mobile access along with the rise of smartphones and tablets I am not the least bit surprised by the doubling of the mobile user number since the 2009 report.  In fact, I would have thought that the number would have been higher since mobile access (even excluding tablet users) has doubled year-over-year since 2009.We need to ask why the number isn’t higher as we move into the new year. Making sure that users know they library resource are accessible on mobile devices and then having them used when needed is crucial. Just because a wide variety of mobile services are available doesn’t mean they will be used.
  2. Again, it’s again crucial that library’s add depth about how sites are being used (or not used) and the ease or difficulty on using them at the local level since no two libraries are alike. With this data we can improve sites and services and hopefully find new users.  Bottom Line: Are the services and tools we make available online USEFUL in the first place. What do users want? Are they easy to navigate? Were descriptions of databases helpful? What could we do better? Do users know what services are available via a library’s web site in the first place. Were they able to use the info they found easily?

Direct to Full Text Report: Mobile Connections to Libraries
PDF Version

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.