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Research Timeline

Pew Internet’s research on the role of libraries in users’ lives and in their communities in the digital age

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has received a $1.4 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to study the role of libraries in users’ lives and in their communities. The grant is for three years, and the research agenda will unfold in the following way.


Stage One (August 2011-November 2012)

Portrait of new technology adoption with a special focus on e-book readers, tablet computers and the new challenges/opportunities they bring to libraries

This research will involve two separate strands of research. The first will be a national phone survey before the end of 2011. The survey will place special emphasis on the reading habits of those who own tablet computers and e-book readers. It will also cover the impact of those devices on their reading habits and their experiences with libraries.

The second strand of research will involve an online survey of librarians aimed at exploring their experiences with patrons and publishers related to e-books and the devices on which people read them. Additionally, we will recruit patrons to complete an online survey about their experiences of borrowing e-books from libraries.

In addition to the two main research areas above, two additional supplementary reports will be released through the summer of 2012 looking at library use in different community types and at the habits of younger library users.


Stage Two (September 2012-July 2013)

The changing world of library services and the choices libraries must make

This research will cover the range and rationale for the new services libraries are offering and explore public attitudes towards the choices that libraries face about the services they can offer and will explore future of libraries in people’s imaginations. The research would include 16 focus groups in at least four diverse communities. Some of the groups would focus on librarians; some would focus on patrons. The research will also contain a national phone survey of the general public and an online survey of librarians. The goals is to gather a portrait of the evolving role of libraries in communities and the array of new services that libraries around the country are creating.

Additional material on the role of libraries in the life of special populations will focus on lower-income users, minorities, rural residents, and senior citizens.


Stage Three (July 2013 – July 2014)

A typology of who does – and does not – use libraries

This research is built around a large national phone survey designed to yield a consumer segmentation of the library patron “marketplace” oriented around users’ needs, experiences, and their sense of the opportunities that libraries provide.

The typology encompasses nine library engagement groups, and is organized around built around not only people’s use of public libraries, but also their attitudes, perceptions, and priorities relating to public libraries’ roles in their lives and in their communities. In addition to demographic information, we also report other information about these groups’ habits and attitudes, in order to shed light on broader issues around the relationship between technology, libraries, and information resources in the United States.

Additional report from these findings will include a portrait of “emerging” library users – those ages 16-24 – and an analysis of Americans’ information habits (Summer 2014).


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Last updated June 2014