Got a problem, ask a librarian

When people need answers, most turn to the Internet, but don’t turn out the lights at the public library. Eighteen to 29-year-olds, known of Gen Y’ers, are the heaviest users of libraries for problem solving information, says a new Pew Internet and American Life study released Sunday.

I hadn’t really thought of the library as a youth haunt, but Gen Y respondents were startlingly far more likely to go to a library to solve a problem than the next group up, Gen Xers, those who are 30 to 41 years old.

Course, they could be going for free access to computers.- about 70 percent said they used a computer at the library.

We’re not talking the homeless or just people on the slow end of the digital divide. The study says::

While libraries have worked to become the place to go for those who cannot afford a computer or an internet connection, people with high access are equally likely to turn to libraries for government information as those with low access. Instead of the internet making libraries less relevant, internet use seems to create an information hunger that libraries help satisfy.

The study surveyed people about 10 problems they might have had in the past two years and how they gathered information about those problems.

The problems were:

  1. dealing with a serious illness or health concern;
  2. making a decision about school enrollment, financingschool, or upgrading work skills;
  3. dealing with a tax matter;
  4. changing a job or starting a business;
  5. getting information about Medicare, Medicaid, or food stamps;
  6. getting information about Social Security or military benefits;
  7. getting information about voter registration or a government policy;
  8. seeking helping on a local government matter such as a traffic problem or schools;
  9. becoming involved in a legal matter; and
  10. becoming a citizen or helping another person with an immigration matter.

The study was funded with a grant from a federal agency that supports libraries.

Somewhere, Ben Franklin is smiling.


  1. This is great. I’ve been arguing for WiFi in local branches /forevuh/ … always smokescreen excuses. (If they fessed up to “lack of resources” we could do yet.another community effort … but they scuttle the idea. Aparatchik!)
    And the work that went into the site I linked to (cobbled together from email to myself, after a catastrophic HD failure that wacked all my primary docs), as well as the fundamental development whose momentum I’ve been riding for 5 years … done in a library.
    p.s. One thing you might want to adjust: “We’re not talking the homeless or …” … that’s just wrong. The homeless have historically been among the fastest to up-take, some real early adapters, any place where there were public access terminals. A real solution met a community with real needs. (One reason my group militated to make sites backwards compatible with Lynx; how’s /that/ for history? *grin*)

  2. p.s. I see very large the URL I used for OpenId. Which I don’t think is r33l kewl.
    I see the URL I chose to promote present, but small, as an icon. Which I think is, well, lame.
    And I see my name naught.
    The name of the comment systems escapes me. When I came across it again, just now, I puzzled why I never used it.
    Meh. That stuff shouldn’t have made it through beta.
    Makes one wonder, it does.
    happy week to you

  3. I suspect you’re right. I was just noting the survey’s correlation between library usage (or intent to use) and income, which was that higher income tracked with higher usage of libraries. I kind of wonder if the opposite would have been highlighted. Lynx? Next we’ll be talking about the joys of Pine!

  4. A fairly major beta of Movable Type 4.1 is working its way through user testing. Perhaps this bug will be fixed with its release (or else I have something configured wrong 🙂 ).

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