January 24, 2022

New Report from Pew: Americans Express Positive Views on Local Libraries But Visits to Library Websites Decline

From Pew Research:

Americans view public libraries as an important part of their communities, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center. Three-quarters (77%) say that public libraries provide them with the resources they need, and 66% say the closing of their local public library would have a major impact on their community.

The survey of more than 1,600 U.S. adults age 16 and older finds that digital tools and comfortable workspaces are among the resources American library users expect to find at their local libraries. Fully 80% say libraries should definitely offer programs to teach people how to use digital tools such as computers and smartphones; 57% expect comfortable spaces for reading and working; and half say libraries should offer to buy 3-D printers and other digital tools so people can learn to use them.

The analysis also finds that visits to local libraries fluctuate. Overall, 53% of Americans have had some interaction with a public library in the past year – either through an in-person visit, a library website, or via a mobile app. Some 48% of adults specifically visited a library or bookmobile in the past 12 months, up from the 44% who said that in late 2015. And the number of Americans who visited library websites in the previous 12 months fell from 31% who said they’d done so in 2015 to 27% in 2016.

In-person library usage fluctuates

Among the findings:

  • Public is not settled on how books should be treated in their local libraries. 24% of adults support the idea of moving books in order to make way for more community and tech-oriented spaces, but 31% say libraries should not do this.

Doing research or checking email are the most frequent uses of library tech resources, but more people are using them to take classes online than last year

  • 37% of Americans feel that public libraries contribute “a lot” when deciding what information they can trust, a 13-point increase from a survey conducted at a similar point in 2015.
  • 19% of American adults say they have never visited a public library, including 11% of those who have college or graduate degrees.
  • 64% of library users 16 and older checked out a book in the last 12 months, but only 29% used a computer at the library in the same timeframe.
  • Frequent library visitors include college graduates (59%), women (57%), parents (55%), and those ages 16-29 (55%).
  • 33% say that a library closing would have a major impact on their families, a feeling that is especially prominent among Latinos (48%), 50- to 64-year-olds (42%), and those with annual household incomes of $30,000 or less (41%).

The analysis in this report is based on a Pew Research Center survey conducted March 7 to April 4, 2016, among 1,601 adults, 16 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Read the Complete Report ||| PDF Version

Comment From Gary Price, infoDOCKET Founder/Editor

From the Report:

44% of those 16 and older say their public libraries loan out e-books, while 10% say this is not true of their communities’ libraries. Researchers at the University of Maryland report that 90% of libraries have e-book lending programs. So, many of Americans are not aware of this core service available at most local libraries.

The 2015 edition of Pew’s “Public Libraries” report said that number of those who said that their public libraries loaned out e-books was 46%.

While the number decreased a small amount in the past year it’s still amazing to me that we are not even at 50% awareness. Again, we’re not talking about actually using or not using library e-book services but simply being aware that it is available.

With the large amount of attention and interest by the public library community to make e-books available and even larger amount of money spent to acquire them, why this number isn’t higher by this point in time. What happened?

By the way, we should ask these same questions about remotely accessible databases.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) 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 Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.