Survey Finds 59% Believe Public Access Computers Important
The Massanutten Regional Library system recently conducted an Impact Survey to better understand how technology impacts library users. The purpose of the survey was to help libraries and librarians across the country understand more about computer users’ needs. The Impact Survey was the result of the research initiative from the University of Washington’s Information School with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Impact Survey involved questioning in the areas of education, employment, entrepreneurship, eGovernment, civic engagement, eCommerce, and social inclusion. A total of 310 MRL patrons completed the Impact Survey; 287 people completed a web survey and 23 people completed a paper survey.
In Massanutten Regional Library, 22% of public access technology users indicated they had used the public library’s computers for educational purposes. The majority of users who engaged in this activity, 24%, were between the ages of 14-24.
34% of the survey respondents reported that they have used the public access computers to apply for jobs in the last year. Nine percent were granted interviews, with 7% reporting successful hiring. The majority of users who engaged in this activity were between the ages of 55-64.
By providing public access technology services, libraries often contribute to the economic health of the community by supporting the small business community. Nine percent of the public access users at MRL reported they had used these resources for entrepreneurship purposes in the past twelve months. The majority of users were again between the ages of 55-64.
Increasingly, finding health information and conducting many health-related service transactions, including signing up for insurance through government exchanges, means going on-line. 31% of users at MRL indicated they had used the library’s computers or Internet connection for health or wellness purposes. The majority of users who engaged in this activity (36%) were between the ages of 55-64, with 21% of users reporting learning about diet or nutrition; of those, 81% made a change to their diets and 17% of users reported learning about exercise or fitness; of those, 90% made a change in their exercise habits. 21% polled also learned about medical procedures.
Public computer usage is a huge component with eGovernment services. 31% of users surveyed used the library’s computers and Internet connection for eGovernment purposes, with 35% of this pool between the ages of 55-64. 20% of users learned about local, state, or federal laws or regulations or government programs or services.
MRL supports civic engagement by providing a venue and resources for citizens to engage with their community. 34% of public access technology users surveyed at MRL reported using the library’s computers or Internet connection for civic engagement purposes. Almost 30% use the library’s technology to keep up with current news and events, and 19% learned about political activity or social causes.
eCommerce was another area of the survey. Consumers connect to the Internet to compare products and services, leaving those without access at a disadvantage when it comes to making informed financial decisions. 41% of users indicated they had used public library computers or Internet connection for eCommerce purposes. Some 27% of these researched or compared products and services, 23% of users purchased online, and 24% made travel arrangements.
38% of users reported having used the library’s computers for social inclusion or keeping up with family and friends. The majority of users (28%) were between the ages of 55-64.
Also important to note about the Impact survey, library patrons (74%) also reported they use the public access computers for homework and continuing education, while 74% of users have access to technology elsewhere but chose to use the computers available at the library for certain tasks and information searches.
Other important statistics implied through the Impact Survey:
Nearly 59% (58.9%) indicated that public access computers are vital to a community.
Over 69% of users received one-on-one help from library staff with technology-related questions.