The Pew Research Center’s Internet Project has intensively studied the changing world of public libraries for the last three years. The first stage of our research explored the growing role of ebooks, including their impact on Americans’ reading habits and library habits. Our second stage examined the full universe of library services, as well as what library services Americans most value and what they might want from libraries in the future.
In March, we released a report from our third and final stage of research—the fruits of a representative national survey of 6,224 Americans ages 16 and older. It explores public libraries’ roles in people’s lives and in broader American culture—how libraries are perceived, how they are valued, and how people rely on them. The
provision of digital content is certainly a key element of the services that make libraries useful. Using the data from our previous report on how people value libraries in their communities, our analysis divides Americans into nine groups that reflect different patterns of public library engagement along a general spectrum of high (30% of the population), medium (39% of the population), low (17% of the population), and nonengagement (14% of the population).