Posted December 31, 2007 9:23 pm by with 15 comments

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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:

  1. dealing with a serious illness or health concern
  2. making a decision about school enrollment, financing school, or upgrading work skills
  3. dealing with a tax matter
  4. changing a job or starting a business
  5. getting information about Medicare, Medicaid, or food stamps
  6. getting information about Social Security or military benefits
  7. getting information about voter registration or a government policy
  8. seeking helping on a local government matter such as a traffic problem or schools
  9. becoming involved in a legal matter
  10. 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Before we despair the plight of the outdated book repository model, another key finding was that 53% of respondents actually do visit libraries (physically, not just their websites) for all kinds of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.

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  • On the one hand, it’s great that information of any kind can easily found online. On the other hand, the WWW is literally filled with low quality information and inexperienced users will definitely have their work cut out for themselves until they get accustomed to the Web.

    Alan Johnson

  • Personally I love how quick the Internet makes my research. If I don’t know what a word means or want to find instant information. I just pop it into Google and I have my answer instantly. I can’t remember the last time I went to a library for research purposes. But I still love going to get books and magazines. But I also agree with Alan, you really have to be careful in what you trust on the web.

  • I do almost all my research on the Internet. I can’t remember the last time I went to a library; probably a few years ago.
    Of course, when you do your research, on whatever subject it may be, you must never depend on one source. You must always research several sources and that will be true whether you research on the Internet or in a library.

  • Sadly, I see the same thing with my children as well, books tend to be neglected nowadays even though both my better half and I try our best in order to encourage them to pick up a book every once in a while.

    Alan Johnson

  • What surprised me the most was how many younger people were going to the library. I would have expected library visits to be less with younger people.

    There is a ton of information online which has it’s pros and cons. I’m happy that I can find something so easily, but because of how much information there is it can be hard to know which source to trust.

    In the end I think this places more emphasis on each of us deciding for ourselves what is true and isn’t true.

  • @ Steven, unfortunately I would guess that a lot of the library visits by young people are to use the computers. I worked at a children’s library for a while and a lot of the kids came in to play some RPG game for two hours (the most they were allowed per day) and then left.

    But really, I can’t blame them much as I haven’t been to a library in quite some time. I still read books but most of my research is done online.

  • You are correct, I can’t blame my kids for not being excited about books since I can’t be certain what my reaction would have been if I had the Internet as an alternative back when I was their age.

    Alan Johnson

  • I’m sure that most of them visit the wikipedia

  • The issue of how much the wikipedia should actually be trusted is also something highly debatable.

    Alan Johnson

  • Zen

    Survey sais 58% of e-marketeers turn to marketing pilgrim first for answers. 😛

  • Although I don’t believe that libraries will lose out entirely to the internet, especially on college campuses, there is no doubt that the most efficient and comprehensive means to find the information that you need is via the internet. That is why it is so popular – the speed with which you can get your questions answered is unbeatable! Even when this information must be scholarly in nature, we have Google Scholar available as a very helpful internet resource. Despite its advantages, libraries still embody an important and symbolic place in our society and hopefully always will.

  • Libraries will definitely lose out entirely since, aside from students, there will always be “old-timers” such as myself who will still use them every once in a while 🙂

    Alan Johnson

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  • I no dont know how i managed without the internet earlier. It is the easiest and now the only source for information for me.

  • At this point, it’s hard to imagine research without the Internet but in the past, I don’t know, I actually don’t really remember complaining about how hard it was to obtain information, even without the WWW.

    Alan Johnson