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Information Hounds and Tech-savvy People Still Rely on Their Public Libraries

The shift to digital devices and lightning-fast information from things other than books hasn’t left public libraries in the dust, as some have predicted.

A new report by the Pew Research Internet Project, released on Friday, March 14, shows that information omnivores and tech-savvy patrons love and rely on their libraries.

In the third of a series of Pew reports about the changing role of libraries in America in the digital age, Pew says:

  • 30 percent of Americans are “library lovers” and “information omnivores.” They are also big technology users and rely on the library as one of their information sources.  
  • Another 39 percent have “medium engagement” with libraries.

Both of those groups tend to be better educated, have higher incomes and are more involved in social and cultural activities than people less engaged in libraries.

  • Families with minor children are also more likely to use libraries, Pew reports.
  • Low-income adults who don’t frequent the library as much still say they value the public library for access to computers, free WiFi and resources to help them find and prepare for new jobs. 

According to the Pew study:

  • “The impact of digital technologies on public libraries is particularly interesting because libraries serve so many people (about half of all Americans ages 16 and older used a public library in some form in the past year, as of September 2013) and correspondingly try to meet a wide variety of needs.”
  • “In recent years, public libraries have continued to add new technologies and formats to their holdings, with the goal of providing patrons resources in whatever form they prefer. Many libraries have also expanded into community centers, serving as unique gathering places in their towns and cities.”
  • “Work by the Pew Research Center has shown that print books are still central to Americans’ library use, just as they remain central in Americans’ overall reading habits. In fact, though more Americans than ever are reading e-books (28 percent of adults ages 18 and older, as of January 2014), few have abandoned print entirely; just 4 percent of readers read e-books exclusively.”

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