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.
- Report: Tablet and E-book reader Ownership Nearly Double Over the Holiday Gift-Giving Period (2012)
- Main report: The rise of e-reading (2012)
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.
- Main report: Libraries, patrons, and e-books (2012)
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.
- Report: Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits (2012)
- Report: Reading Habits in Different Communities (2012)
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.
- Report: E-book Reading Jumps; Print Book Reading Declines (2012)
- Report: Mobile Connections to Libraries (2012)
- Main report: Library Services in the Digital Age (2013)
- Report: Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading (2013)
A report on teens and young adults will be issued in June. Additional material on the role of libraries in the life of special populations will be issued in the late summer of 2013, focusing on lower-income users, minorities, rural residents, and senior citizens.
Stage Three (July 2013 – April 2014)
A typology of who does – and does not – use libraries
This research would be 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 would be organized around three broad lines of inquiry:
- People’s sense of what assets are available in libraries, including technology. We would also ask about their personal technology assets.
- People’s actual use of libraries: How do they use materials, technology, and other library services. We would also gather a basic picture of how they use technology assets.
- What people think about and expect of libraries. People’s attitudes about the role of libraries and technology at their libraries play in their lives and in their communities.
We would also gather evidence of people’s general attitudes about the role of technology in their lives. We would use these findings to construct a “library user” typology that sorts patrons into roughly 6 to 10 different user “types” based on the qualities of their libraries, their use of libraries, and their attitudes about libraries.
A report on the main findings will be issued in early 2014.
A second report from these findings will be a portrait of “emerging” library users – those ages 16-24 in late winter/early spring 2014.