The newest PEW/Internet and American Life study indicates just how important the Internet is becoming in . . . well, American Life. Of the nearly 2800 Americans surveyed, 58% turn to the Internet first for answers.
Sort of, anyway. The specific questions asked in the phone survey included whether respondents had experienced 10 specific problems recently. All of the problems included need access to the government or government-provided information. Of the respondents who had experienced at least one of those problems, 58% of them turned to the Internet for answers. Only 13% of them turned to the library for help. The ten specific problems:
- dealing with a serious illness or health concern
- making a decision about school enrollment, financing school, or upgrading work skills
- dealing with a tax matter
- changing a job or starting a business
- getting information about Medicare, Medicaid, or food stamps
- getting information about Social Security or military benefits
- getting information about voter registration or a government policy
- seeking helping on a local government matter such as a traffic problem or schools
- becoming involved in a legal matter
- becoming a citizen or helping another person with an immigration matter.
Before we despair the plight of the outdated book repository model, another key finding was that 53% of respondents actually do visit libraries (physically, not just their websites) for all kinds of things. The release continues:
Furthermore, it is young adults who are the most likely to say they will use libraries in the future when they encounter problems: 40% of Gen Y said they would do that, compared with 20% of those above age 30 who say they would go to a library.
Naturally, people without Internet access (23% of those surveyed) tend to turn to libraries and government agencies directly.