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Two New Pew Internet & American Life Project Report

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute as January Blogger of the Month FGI. Good luck to you Susanna — I think it is wonderful way to foster conversations within our community. In a note from Beth Haper, who is the editor of the Wisconsin Library Association’s Government Information Round Table’s newsletter "Eagle Press" informs me that they ask subscribers to respond to a question, and publish the responses in the issue. She wanted to use the three questions I posted on Jan. 18 in this fashion. I said sure — I love a mash-up between the print and electronic worlds. Seems to be the defining feature of our current professional life, as pointed out by several responders to the discussion — formats do matter. I guess the debate unfolds over how much they should matter….but that will be for another blog entry.

Along these lines, and in response to another comment sent about the inherent difficulties and limitations of electronic government services in public libraries, I want to note that the good folks at the Pew Trust have released a couple of significant reports about how American’s use the Internet in their civic and political lives (another future blog entry; delineation between civic and political information.)

The first report "Infomation Searches that Solve Problems" ( reports

"People who have faced one of several common government-related problems in the past two years are more likely to consult the internet than other sources, including experts and family members.

In a national phone survey, respondents were asked whether they had encountered 10 possible problems in the previous two years, all of which had a potential connection to the government or government-provided information. Those who had dealt with the problems were asked where they went for help and the internet topped the list:

  • 58% of those who had recently experienced one of those problems said they used the internet (at home, work, a public library or some other place) to get help.
  • 53% said they turned to professionals such as doctors, lawyers or financial experts.
  • 45% said they sought out friends and family members for advice and help.
  • 36% said they consulted newspapers and magazines.
  • 34% said they directly contacted a government office or agency.
  • 16% said they consulted television and radio.
  • 13% said they went to the public library.

    The survey results challenge the assumption that libraries are losing relevance in the internet age. Libraries drew visits by more than half of Americans (53%) in the past year for all kinds of purposes, not just the problems mentioned in this survey. And it was the young adults in tech-loving Generation Y (age 18-30) who led the pack. Compared to their elders, Gen Y members were the most likely to use libraries for problem-solving information and in general patronage for any purpose." 

  • The other report, "The Internet Gains in Politics" ( continues a decade long study by the Pew Institute that investigates how the internet is used in electoral campaigns.

    "Nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) say they regularly learn something about the campaign from the internet, almost the double the percentage from a comparable point in the 2004 campaign (13%)."

    So, perhaps it’s more than a mash-up between paper and digital. One can argue for a mash-up between the library as place and electronic civic and political information sources. Now there is a novel twist — the library physical as the ultimate format of choice…..


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