Released: October 26, 2011

What do Americans want from their libraries? Here’s our chance to find out

What does your community want and need from a library? If you’re a librarian, chances are you’ve made efforts to find out, to strategically plan, to adjust services to local interests and changing needs. Rarely, though, do any of us get to see a broad view of our library community through the filter of independent data.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project is going to give us that view. Over the next three years, new research will investigate the role of libraries in the digital age, focusing on the ways libraries serve their users and their communities. Supported by a $1.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the study will be implemented by the Pew Internet Project, a nonpartisan “fact tank” that conducts nationwide surveys and qualitative research to help us understand the evolution of internet use.

The grant will allow researchers to concentrate on libraries in a way they never have before. “It’s enormously exciting to be doing something very focused on libraries and librarians because they are primary stakeholders of our work,” says Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project. “I know from all the conversations I’ve had with librarians how interested they are to find out where they stand in the world, what services people expect of them, and where they might fit into the world of ebooks.”


How to participate

There are two ways to get involved in the Pew Internet Project’s research on American libraries.

1. For the first phase of the study, which will begin in the next few months, Rainie will need to identify people who use ebook readers and tablets in libraries. Participants will be asked about their reading habits, how they use their ereaders with library materials, and what the experience is like for them. If you know of ebook-reading patrons who would be willing to participate, contact Rainie at lrainie [at] pewinternet [dot] org.

2. For the second phase of the study, which will happen in mid- to late 2012, the Pew Internet Project will be surveying both librarians and community members about library services. Rainie wants to hear from a diverse set of librarians about services they’re now offering, services they’re contemplating, and services they may be seeing less demand for. If you’re a librarian who would like to participate, contact Rainie at lrainie [at] pewinternet [dot] org.

Read the story at