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Sunday, 30th December 2007

New From Pew Internet: Information Searches That Solve Problems; Where are the Social Networks?

New From Pew Internet: Information Searches That Solve Problems
From the summary:

There are several major findings in this report. One is this: For help with a variety of common problems, more people turn to the internet than consult experts or family members to provide information and resources.

Another key insight is that members of Gen Y are the leading users of libraries for help solving problems and in more general patronage.

In a national phone survey, respondents were asked whether they had encountered 10 possible problems in the previous two years, all of which had a potential connection to the government or government-provided information. Those who had dealt with the problems were asked where they went for help and the internet topped the list:

This report is the fruit of a partnership of the University of Illinois -Urbana-Champaign and the Pew Internet & American Life Project. It was funded with a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, an agency that is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.

NOTE: It's a shame that this important and INTERESTING report was released during the holidays when attention is often turned to other matters. Also, does this mean using the library for research help or as a place to "hang-out," socialize, play games, etc. Both are important but we think it's also important to differentiate how the library facility is being used. The library as a research center vs. a community center.

A major focus of this survey was on those with no access to the internet (23% of the population) and those with only dial-up access (13% of the population). This low-access population is poorer, older, and less well-educated than the cohort with broadband access at home or at work. They are less likely to visit government offices or libraries under any circumstances. And they are more likely to rely on television and radio for help than are high-access users.

Direct to full text of the report.

A few comments along with some questions that we were able to ask Lee Rainie, a co-author of the report. Unfortunately, many of these issues were not addressed in this survey but we hope will be part of future surveys.

58% of those surveyed use a variety of tools including the library, but our primary question is whether these people know that the “power” of the library and more importantly the librarian NOW EXTEND beyond the library building, are often available 24×7x365, and can deliver material (let’s say an article or advertisement from the June 12, 1999 issue or March 20, 1899 issue of the NY Times) in a matter of seconds?

13% of those surveyed said they “Went” to the public library. Precisely, what does going to the library mean? Do people know that the public library of today often extends beyond the four walls of the building? In other words, people visit libraries and that’s great news, but the library of 2008 and beyond is more than the building and, even more important, access to the professionals who work in those buildings is becoming easier.

A) What about those who might use a specialty library/librarian (at their office for example) or an academic library in their area, or even contact one of these via the Internet?
B) What about the fact that many PUBLIC libraries offer remote access services. Where does virtual reference (even picking up the phone and asking a question) fit into the mix? Do people know about it? Would they consider using it if they did know it was available.
C) Do they know about remotely accessible databases? That these databases provide full text articles, books, etc., and are free?
D) Do people pay for content and services they could get for free if they only knew where to get them?
E) Increasingly, public libraries are offering remotely downloadable audiobooks, video, etc. Do people know these services are available and are also free?
F) Do users or potential users know that a library card from Public Library “A” might also give them privileges at Public Library “B”, “C” and “D.”
G) Perhaps the library community should not only market/promote itself as a PLACE, but also as a service that’s accessible whenever and wherever a person has an information need. This is going to be increasingly important as mobile becomes more and more popular.
H) Finally, how can users know what they don’t know about? What can libraries, librarians, and the information industry do about it? Where does the responsibility fall to get the word out? Don’t vendors have a role in helping libraries promote some of these services NOT ONLY to those who visit the library building but also to the masses who haven’t set foot in a library building in years?

Finally, when the report reviewed WHERE people get information, we were surprised not to see any mention of social networks.
+ 58% of those who had recently experienced one of those problems said they used the internet (at home, work, a public library or some other place) to get help.

Do people know that some of the library work can now be done from home, office, internet cafe, etc.? This includes the most important part, conversing with a librarian and taking advantage of his or her professional skills and knowledge to help satisfy their information needs.

+ 53% said they turned to professionals such as doctors, lawyers or financial experts.

+ 45% said they sought out friends and family members for advice and help.

+ 36% said they consulted newspapers and magazines.

+ 34% said they directly contacted a government office or agency.

+ 16% said they consulted television and radio.

+ 13% said they went to the public library.

See Also: Happy New Year to Libraries (via Chron of Higher Ed, LISNews)


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