Study finds libraries integral to millions of people
A national study released last week showing that millions of people rely on library computers for employment, health and education, puts everything into perspective for Carson City Library Director Sara Jones.
“It is an interesting study … new to us,” Jones said. “It documents what people are using library computers for and how important it is in their lives.”
The study, conducted by the University of Washington Information School, was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
According to the Institute, the study made four significant findings:
• Forty percent of library computer users (an estimated 30 million people) received help with career needs. Among these users,
75 percent reported they searched for a job online. Half of these users filled out an online application or submitted a resume.
• Thirty-seven percent focused on health issues. The vast majority of these users (82 percent) logged on to learn about a disease, illness or medical condition. One-third of these users sought out doctors or health care providers. Of these, about half followed up by making appointments for care.
• Forty-two percent received help with educational needs. Among these users, 37 percent (an estimated 12 million students) used their local library computer to do homework for a class.
• Sixty percent of users (43.3 million people) used a library’s computer resources to connect with others. Library computers linked patrons to their government, communities and civic organizations.
Jones is particularly pleased with the results since Charter is underwriting cable service to the library’s computers, which she said amounts to several hundred dollars a month for the 20 PCs.
“This is giving us pretty high-speed access. We were really having issues, and this service is separate from our own system,” she said. “Users are requiring more and more space and they need stuff to not take forever to load.”
Charter’s Corporate Com-munications Director John Miller said in an e-mail that the partnership is a good one.
“Charter’s thousands of residential and business customers in the Carson City area benefit from our Internet products and services in their homes and offices,” Miller said. “We are pleased that now all patrons who utilize the wonderful resources at the Carson City Library will also have high-speed Internet access provided by Charter.”
He said the company’s focus is promote digital
“Charter is focused on initiatives that help to expand digital literacy and adoption of high-speed Internet in our communities. Charter’s provision of Internet service to the Carson City Library lengthens the library’s reach to residents of all ages and helps assure that more in our community achieve their digital potential,” he said.
Jones said now – more than ever – people are relying on the Internet.
“So many are looking for jobs, and if they can’t pay for home access anymore, it’s a win-win situation when partnerships like this can exist in a community. Maybe library Internet users will remember Charter when times are better,” she said.
“From July 2009 until the end of February, we had 28,263 sessions – averaging 3,532 per month. A session is up to an hour, and people are limited to two sessions a day,” Jones said. “In addition, we offer Wi-Fi, and that provided 2,783 hours of use in the same time period.”
The Friends of the Carson City Library, with a match from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, helped the library buy 15 of the 20 PCs now available to patrons, she said.
“In these tough times, we’re helping a whole lot of people,” Jones said.
The report’s findings are based on nearly 50,000 surveys – including 3,176 from a national telephone survey and 44,881 Web survey responses – from patrons of more than 400 public libraries across the country, the Institute says.
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