Pew Internet Research Discovers Typology of American Library Usage in Capstone Study

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Pew has been studying the relationship between Americans, libraries, new technologies, and library services for some time now, and they have created a capstone report concluding 3 years of research in these areas. The work that Pew has conducted shows that Americans are still reading and borrowing print books at libraries, even as e-books are on the rise. Pew has studied a wide range of patron views about our public library services, while also uncovering that they are interested in a wide range of new technological services which can help them access more information in the future.

The capstone report creates a new “typology” of the engagement Americans have with their public libraries: Pew created a statistical analysis of clusters of individuals based on their usage of and views about library access. The broader issues of technology, libraries and resources are included, with the relationships that patrons have with their libraries taking center stage. This is a much deeper analysis than just demographic analysis, as it focuses on the contexts in which patrons use library resources and the connections they have with the library.

Pew found that 30% of Americans age 16 and older are highly engaged with their libraries, while 39% have medium engagement. Also of importance is that individuals with good economic, social, technological and cultural resources are more likely to use and value libraries, whereas those who have less levels of technology use, social ties, and cultural engagement tend to not use the library. Deeper connections with the library is also found during momentous times of life, whether it is having a child, seeking a job, or experience a life event requiring research.

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Mickel is an MLIS and the creator of Library Currents. His inspiration for the blog was the SJSU course "The Hyperlinked Library" taught by Dr. Michael Stephens, a course that is also a worldwide MOOC. If you wish to contact him, feel free to write to Mickel Paris at

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