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Libraries Transformed: Day 2 Keynote

The audience gathers to hear Lee Rainie’s keynote address

Lee Rainie talks with Jane Dysart and Tom Hogan, Sr.

It’s probably no news to you that libraries are changing. But exactly how much are they changing and what are the new and innovative things they are doing?  In another of his IL keynote addresses, Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, told us about Libraries Transformed: Research on the changing role of libraries.  Lee is fond of saying that his favorite audience is librarians, and it was certainly evident in his keynote.  He began by describing 3 major revolutions that are affecting us today

Digital Revolution 1: Broadband

Broadband has become pervasive, which has resulted in people have becoming content curators.  66% of American adults accessing the Internet from home do so using broadband connections.  69% of them are social networking site users, and 59% share photos and videos.  46% of them are creators, and 41% are curators.  Only 16% of the people use Twitter, and 14% are bloggers.  Twitter users are especially interested in civic life, which is why many more librarians are Twitter users.

Digital Revolution 2:  Mobile

89% of adults have a cell phone, and many of those have Smartphones.  There are 331.6 million wireless subscriptions active in America, which is more than the population of the U.S. (315.5 million).  Nearly half of cell phone owners have downloaded apps.

Digital Revolution 3:  Social Networking

59% of all adults use social networking systems.  Here is the age breakdown; it’s remarkable how many senior citizens use social networking and are enchanted by it and think it is magic.Here is an age breakdown of those users.

More than one-third of adults own at least 1 e-reading device, which is changing the way they acquire and think about knowledge.  People do different things on their phones than their tablets.  They snap photos on their phones; on tablets, they tend to read and digest material in a “lean back” mode.  There seems to be a spike in tablet use around bedtime; people are reading tomorrow’s news before they go to sleep.

Pew’s Library Research

Last year, an initial report described the rise of e-reading.  21% of American adults read an e-book in the last year; 68% read a print book; and 11% listened to an audio book.  Print books still matter the most.  People say they are reading more; the number of people reading e-books rose 4 times, from 4$ to 15%.  Readers of e-books tend to be early adopters.  Here are some of their general characteristics:

E-book reading is not limited to e-readers; some people read on their cell phones, and others are reading on their PCs.  But the people who own the devices use them heavily.  Here are some data on the purposes for which people read print books vs. e-books.

And here are the pleasures that people get from reading.

Pew’s second report looked at e-book borrowing.  12% of e-book readers have borrowed one from the library in the past year.  Non-borrowers are unaware they can borrow e-books too.  Borrowers tend to also be buyers.  62% of non-borrowers don’t know that libraries offer e-books as a service, which represents a gigantic opportunity for libraries.  Some of the problems with the borrowing process include compatibility with their devices, long waiting lists, and lack of the book in the library’s collection.  Many people would be receptive to training courses.  Half the people who have library cards bought the last book they read, so they are not cannibalizing publishers’ revenues.

Here are some demographics of fans of the library.

9 takeaways for librarians:

  1. E-reading is taking off because sales of the gadgets are taking off.
  2. The gadget doesn’t make the reader, but it may change the reader.
  3. E-book readers are omnivores (and probably influencers).
  4. E-Book readers are not platform snobs AND they like different platforms for different purposes.
  5. Library users are not always the same as library fans.
  6. E-book borrowing has a foothold and a huge upside.
  7. Library users are book buyers.
  8. Library borrowing patterns are changing.
  9. Collections are changing. Some libraries are changing their resource allocations to favor e-book reading.
Pew’s 3rd report on e-reading was issued this morning and was on young readers.  Young people are reading more books; 40% of them read more in an age of digital content.  They read more e-books on phones and PCs than e-readers and tablets.  On a typical day, they are more likely to be reading than people in older generations.  More often, they read for work and school or to research topics of interest and use all kinds of devices.  Young people have not abandoned libraries; their usage profile is similar to that of older people.  They are also particularly likely to ask librarians for help.  But even though they use the library more, they are somewhat less likely to say that the library is more important to them and their family.

In a new study,  Pew is looking at changing library services using a national survey and focus groups with users and librarians   If you want to participate, send Lee an e-mail.  Here are 11 early insights from the study:

  1. Meta-question among librarians: Should librarians try to be all things to all people or do a few things really well?  (Even users don’t know how to answer this.)
  2. Libraries are widely appreciated for their meaning to their communities.  People have an enormous affection for libraries; it is a definer for a community to have a library.  They feel the stresses of libraries and think that librarians are waiting for users to come from them.
  3. Libraries still mean “books” to many users; the e-book situation is still an uncertainty and in flux in their minds.
  4. Many, many users are unaware of services offered by the libraries, including their website material, and they stress the need for better and more aggressive marketing. People are not upset by library marketing efforts.
  5. Parents of minor children have the strongest feelings and fondest memories and hope for life-lessons for their kids.  Libraries have a special value to parents; one said, “You never have to say no to your kids at a library.”
  6. Technology is as important a service as book lending.  Job applications and searches are big new features that people are using.  Many librarians have a love-hate relationship with technology; they don’t want to provide technical support to the world–it’s not what they got into librarianship for!
  7. Libraries are being judged in comparison to other services and offerings being offered in the world.  People mention genius bars, Amazon recommendations, and personal shoppers.  They sometimes want concierges.
  8. Amenities and atmospheres matter.  Segmenting spaces is appealing.
  9. People would really appreciate coordination with other local institutions.  Who are our natural allies in the community?  Where can we refer people?  You can think of the library as tech support for the community.
  10. A surprisingly big chunk of Americans are totally disconnected from the library.  They didn’t go there when they were in school and don’t think about the library now.  Libraries need to think about how they can reach out to these people.
  11. You are on your own inventing the future!  (See Robert Dawson Photography–Library Road Trip.)  What you build is what the future will be.  Go forth and conquer!

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today, and
IL 2012 Blog Coordinator

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