Lee Rainie, Pew Research Institute, looks at resetting the future in his opening keynote address at Computers in Libraries Internet Librarian Connect 2020. He shares research on Americans and libraries in crisis times: A major takeaway: People are using technology differently as their lives are upended. What Pew has studied since March and how it affects libraries.
No surprise here: Pew’s research reveals that the U.S. is a nation in the midst of very contentious issues.
Implications of race producing disparate results about COVID, with more minorities getting sick. Economic impact other major part of this story. And this hits lower income adults harder. Majority of Americans support BLM. Conversations about race have gone way up. More participation in protests and not just young and urban folks. Polarization is rampant and public trust in the federal government just keeps getting lower. The good news: Trust in libraries is still high. Pew polls are usually face to face but because of COVID, couldn’t do that, so fewer countries are represented
Americans are worried about voting in the midst of COVID and public has little confidence in tech companies to prevent misuse of their platforms during election.
American increasingly think that climate change is a major threat to the wellbeing of the US but it’s more Democrats than Republicans.
Enormous uptick in use of internet and adults are relying on it. New activities such as parties, watching concerts, going to fitness classes, getting groceries online. And, of course, we’re Zooming more. There’s a lot more gaming.
Libraries: Sanctuary, trusted information resource, family helper, community strengthener, democracy anchor. People rely on librarians to help them navigate our confusing information landscape, particularly when it comes to misinformation about COVID. Made-up news is a bigger problem than many other key issues. There’s a wide partisan gap in who’s getting the fats correct on coronavirus. 59% of lower income people struggle with homework online. Palpable hunger for grassroots solutions, talk honestly with their neighbors. Majority of Americans say the country can always find ways to solve our problems and libraries are institutions of hope.
Halo effect of librarian carries over from publics to other types of libraries. Higher levels of civic engagement now. Libraries are seen as safe havens for diverse conversations. When people are talking to each other via computer it’s not really a conversation. People feel more OK with not being nice to each other. Libraries are in public education business. Solving problems together, shoulder to shoulder, is easy way to foster cooperation and understanding.