Ok librarians, please, sit down. I have some news for you, and it is so shocking it will knock you right out of your sensible shoes.

People use the computers at public libraries.

I know! Can you believe it? I thought our banks and banks of computers were for decoration. Oh! Hey! Now I know why I’m an expert in queueing software and paper jams. 🙂

But seriously folks. All of us library types KNOW that when the economy takes a dive the library sees an increase in patrons. Add this to the list of things you didn’t learn in library school:

  1. How to find jobs for everyone that walks in the door
  2. How to assist a patron that speaks a language that you don’t with an application that is in a language they don’t speak
  3. How to deal with the heartbreaking and tragic stories of loss people share with you because they often don’t have anyone else that will listen

Yeah, where was that class?
Oh? Over in the Social Work department! Hmm . . .

All kidding aside, this is actually fantastic. Although I have a Gender Studies background and am all about The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research (seriously, it was my thesis bible), I do understand the need for numbers. We qualitative types aren’t against numbers, and any research worth his/her salt knows that mixed methods research is the bee’s knees and the only way to get a comprehensive picture of user behavior. I do have to admit that some of the math they used is stuff I never learned or forgot (sorry Mr. N – your calculus class was great though) – so I get lost a bit, but I love the fact that people found this worthy of time and money. Thanks Bill and Melinda, IMLS, UW, and all those folks that had to make the calls for the phone survey!

Check out the excerpt below, full article available through the Information School at the University of Washington.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and IMLS funded a study on computer usage in public libraries. (U.S. Impact Public Library Study)

Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries

About the U.S. IMPACT Public Library Study

Public libraries have provided free access to the Internet and computers since the 1990s. Libraries have also provided access to digital resources, databases, networked and virtual services, training, technical assistance, and technology-trained staff. However, little research has examined the relationship between free access to computers and outcomes that benefit individuals, families, and communities.

To better understand how the provision of free access to the Internet and computers in public libraries is impacting the lives of individuals, families, and communities across the United States, the Institute of Museum and Library Services issued a request for proposals for research targeted at documenting, describing and analyzing the use and results of this use in libraries throughout the nation.

Works mentioned in this post

Becker, Samantha, Michael D. Crandall, Karen E. Fisher, Bo Kinney, Carol Landry, and Anita Rocha. (2010). Opportunity for All: How
the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries. (IMLS-2010-RES-01). Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Washington, D.C.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). The SAGE handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

(oh, and if you noticed the mismatched citation styles 1) you’re a total nerd 😉 and 2) I used the suggested citation for the study and good ol’ APA for the other)

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