Archive for the Technology Category

Text reference increased by as much as 375% in U.S. public libraries from 2010 to 2012


Image credit: Free Library of Philadelphia

Earlier this week, we released a report, U.S. Public Libraries and the Use of Web Technologies, 2012, that presents the findings of our longitudinal study of nearly 600 U.S. public libraries’ use of web technologies and social media. One element that we examined was virtual reference–email, chat, and text. Our findings showed that in 2008, 2010, and 2012, email was the most popular form of virtual reference. In 2012, well over half of libraries serving populations of at least 100,000 provided email reference services, as did nearly half of libraries serving 25,000-99,999. However, it appears that email reference is waning a bit in popularity, as libraries serving 100,000+ as well as the smallest libraries (serving less than 10,000) showed decreases from 2010.

Chat reference was still offered by many public libraries but it has also declined from 2010 to 2012, with substantial drops at the larger libraries: libraries serving 500,000+ dropped from 71% to 57% and those serving 100,000-499,999 fell from 49% to 38%.

In contrast, text reference has seen extensive growth in libraries. Just 13% of the largest libraries (serving 500,000+) offered text reference in 2010; in 2012, more than 3 times as many (43%) did. About 1 in 5 libraries (19%) serving 100,000-499,999 offered text reference services in 2012 compared to just 4% in 2010. And, more than twice as many libraries serving 25,000-99,999 offered text reference in 2012 than 2010 (9% vs. 4%), as did more than 3 times as many libraries serving 10,000-24,999 (7% vs. 2%) . None of the smallest libraries offered text reference in 2010, whereas 2% did so in 2012.

Check out the following resources for more information about this study:

Note: This post is part of our series, “The Weekly Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st century library.

U.S. Public Libraries and the Use of Web Technologies, 2012

U.S. Public Libraries and the Use of Web Technologies, 2012


Our new report, U.S. Public Libraries and the Use of Web Technologies, 2012, presents the findings of the third iteration of our biennial study, launched in 2008, that documents the use of various web technologies (social networking, virtual reference,  blogs, etc.) on the websites of nearly 600 public libraries throughout the nation. Our results showed that U.S. public libraries made big gains in the following areas from 2010 to 2012:

  • Social networking: More than half of all libraries were on Facebook. For libraries serving populations of 25,000-499,999, this number jumped to 4 in 5, and to more than 9 in 10 for the largest libraries (serving 500,000+). The smallest libraries (serving less than 10,000) showed the biggest increase in adoption of this social network from 2010 to 2012: 18% to 54%.
  • Mobile access: In 2010 we detected the presence of any type of mobile-friendly website access in only 12 percent of the largest public libraries, 3 percent of libraries serving 100,000-499,999, and no libraries serving less than 100,000. In 2012, three-fourths of the largest libraries offered mobile-friendly access, followed by about 3 in 5 libraries serving 25,000-499,999, one-third of libraries serving 10,000-24,000, and 17% of the smallest libraries.
  • Text reference: From 2010 to 2012, text reference increased by 231% in the largest libraries, 375% in libraries serving 100,000-499,999, 125% in libraries serving 25,000-99,999, and 250% in libraries serving 10,000-24,999.

Check out the following resources to learn more:

Top 4 portable electronics loaned by libraries


Image Credit: Hooksett Library

In 2011, Time Magazine featured an online article that enthusiastically proclaimed loaner iPads as one of the “best freebies” ever offered by public libraries. Today, public libraries across the country continue to loan tablet and e-reader devices, as well as other portable electronics, like laptops, GPS units, and MP3 players. At the Hooksett Public Library in New Hampshire, for example, patrons aged 18 and older need only present their library card and a valid driver’s license to borrow an e-reader for two weeks. Closer to home, Jefferson County Public Library loans “JCPL 2 Go” devices, which are wireless tablets that contain eBooks and other digital information. This service was recently covered by 7 News, the ABC affiliate in Denver. And, patrons of all ages may check out laptops at the San Francisco Public Library, though they may not take them from the premises.  Here are some examples of libraries that lend portable electronics:

1. Laptops:

2. E-readers and tablets:

3. GPS units:

4. MP3 players:

Does your library loan any of these items or other types of portable electronics? Let us know by leaving a comment on our Twitter account.

Note: This post is part of our “Beyond Books” series. From time to time, we’ll be sharing examples of unique lending programs, events, and outreach that libraries are offering.

40% of library computer users use computers for employment purposes

40% of library computer users use computers for employment purposes


In 2010, researchers from the University of Washington released the study “Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries.” This study was a national effort that consisted of a random telephone survey, online surveys of library users, interviews, and focus groups to determine who library internet computer users were, why they were using the computers, and how this service benefited their lives.

The results showed that library internet computer users’ three most common reasons for using the computers were social connections (60%), education (42%), and employment (40%).  This study also found that library computer use was most common among people in poverty, people of mixed race and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders, 14-18 year olds, men, and people who speak languages other than English at home.

The survey used in this study was the Impact Survey, which is now freely available to U.S. public libraries. If you are interested in learning more about the demographics of your computer users and their reasons for using the library computers, this might be a good option for you. After administering the survey to your patrons, you will receive customized reports that can be used for planning, marketing, and advocacy purposes. Check out the Impact Survey website for more information about how your library can participate in this study.

Looking for other resources for library user surveys? Check out our user satisfaction survey templates. These consist of 3 survey templates that you can download and modify for use in your library, as well as tips and best practices for survey design and administration.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The Weekly Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st century library.

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