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It wouldn’t be a leap to theorize that the expanding role technology plays in American lives would lead to the demise of public libraries. After all, so many other industries, including the one that’s bringing you this article, continue to struggle in the digital age.
When it comes to libraries, though, that theory would be wrong. A new study from the Pew Research Center found that more than two-thirds of Americans are actively engaged with public libraries. The report examines the relationship Americans have with their libraries and technology. Dusty, worn books versus sleek new computers, tablets or smartphones may seem like unlikely companions, but it’s really all about information.
“A key theme in these survey findings is that many people see acquiring information as a highly social process in which trusted helpers matter,” Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and a main author of the report said. “One of the main resources that people tap when they have questions is the networks of expertise. Even some of the most self-sufficient information consumers in our sample find that libraries and librarians can be part of their networks when they have problems to solve or decisions to make.”
The study also found that Americans who are more engaged in their communities are also more engaged at their libraries. But what was surprising, according to the researchers, is that the most highly engaged library users tended to be the biggest technology users.
Here are some of the more surprising findings of the report:
Pew Research spent three years studying the role of public libraries and surveyed 6,224 Americans ages 16 and older. The report is different from other Pew reports on libraries in both the number of people surveyed and the way respondents were sorted into groups based on their engagement with public libraries.
The Pew Research Center hopes the study will spark discussions about what the future of public libraries should look like. View the full report at the Pew Research Center website.
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