Frequently when I’m helping someone at the front desk, they will look past me into the computer lab and say, “What are they doing in there?”
The definitive answer to that question was published this week: a national research study funded by the Gates Foundation and carried out by the University of Washington School of Information. The study is available at http://cis.washington.edu/usimpact/. Some of the high points:
Roughly 77 million people (that’s one-third of all Americans 14 and older) accessed the Internet at a library in the past year. That includes 44% of people living below the federal poverty guideline, and half of the nation’s 14-to-18-year-olds.
Of those 77,000,000 people,
- 40% used library Internet access for job hunting.
- 37% focused on health issues, learning about a medical condition and its treatment.
- 42% met educational needs at the library
- 72% used library computer resources to connect with others.
In 1996, only 28% of libraries in the U.S. offered Internet access. Today, nearly every library offers free access to all library visitors.