Last week Judy and I spent two days at workshops sponsored by the State Library of Iowa and the Northwest Library Service Area. A main focus was technical issues. I think by now everyone is aware that public Internet access is one of the most popular services offered by Iowa libraries. Here are some interesting statistics about library computer use in the state and around the country.
According to Iowa Public Library Statistics, 68% or 2,035,242 Iowa citizens used public libraries in Fiscal Year 2009-10. Of those, 45% or 915,859 people used library Internet computers.
About 78% of public library computer users report having Internet access somewhere else. Reasons given for using library computers included slow access at home, too many family members trying to use one machine, security concerns, travel, printing issues, needing assistance and in the case of younger patrons, social contact with peers. (How well we know that one!) I would add lunchtime use by rural residents who work in town.
In a national study the following percentages were given for computer activities. 60% of users accessed a social connection like Facebook. 42% used library computers for education purposes such as filling out FAFSA forms. 40% looked for employment opportunities. 30% were concerned with health issues. 34% wanted access to government or legal services and 33% were into political activities. 25% pursued a financial issue such as paying a bill. Most were on the computer for multiple reasons.
The most active group using library computers nationwide are 14-18 year olds. Half of the citizens in that age category reported using library Internet connections during the last year and a quarter used library computers once a week or more.
None of this comes as a surprise to anyone who works in a public library but it is nice to see it formalized into numbers.
We have 16 computers designated for public use with Internet access being the most popular activity. Our wireless connection makes for easy use of personal laptops in the building. You may even see people sitting on the bench outside the front door or in their car typing away as our signal can be accessed within a short radius of the library.
We do our best to provide what our patrons need and want and it becomes more apparent all the time that computers are it. Questions about using library computers and our policies may be directed to 225-3498.