Free Internet is a big draw at libraries

Hank Silverberg,

WASHINGTON – A new national survey shows free Internet access may be just as important as the ability to borrow books at libraries.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life project surveyed library users 16 years old and over and found 77 percent think free Internet access is very important for libraries. Eighty percent put borrowing books in that same category.

The survey also found that 18 percent said Internet access was somewhat important and only 2 percent said it was not important at all.

“Having that access is important for libraries that view their core mission is to provide access to information,” says Pew researcher Kathryn Zickuhr. “That information doesn’t just include books.”

Some other findings from the survey:

  • 82 percent say free literacy programs for children are a must for libraries.
  • 52 percent said libraries should offer a better selection of e-books.
  • 73 percent say they visit to borrow print books.
  • 50 percent say they visit to seek help from a librarian.
  • 49 percent say they visit to sit, read, study or watch or listen to media.
  • 46 percent say they visit to use a research database.

The national survey done by Pew also found more people are accessing library services by mobile devices. According to the 2012 survey, some 13 percent over the age of 16 did so, compared with 6 percent in 2009. Those most likely to use a mobile device are under the age of 50.

Overall, the survey found 25 percent of all Americans had visited library websites in the last year, with 27 percent visiting at least once a month.

Those who visited the sites used a wide variety of library services, from searching library catalogs to reserving e-books to using online databases.

The phone survey of 2,252 American was conducted between Oct. 15, 2012 and Nov. 10, 2012. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percent.

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