Internet Top Choice for People Who Need Problem-Solving Info: Pew Survey Also Shows That Internet Users Are More Likely to Use Libraries to Find Needed Information-And for General-Patronage Purposes
People who faced one of several common government-related problems in the past two years were more likely to consult the Internet than other sources, including experts and family members.
In a national phone survey, respondents were asked whether they had encountered 10 possible problems in the previous two years, all of which had a potential connection to the government or government-provided information. Those who had dealt with the problems were asked where they went for help and the Internet topped the list:
* 58 percent of those who had recently experienced one of those problems said they used the Internet (at home, work, a public library, or some other place) to get help.
* 53 percent said they turned to professionals such as doctors, lawyers, or financial experts.
* 45 percent said they sought out friends and family members for advice and help.
* 36 percent said they consulted newspapers and magazines.
* 34 percent said they directly contacted a government office or agency.
* 16 percent said they consulted television and radio.
* 13 percent said they went to the public library.
The survey results also challenge the assumption that libraries are losing relevance in the Internet age. Libraries drew visits by more than half of Americans (53 percent) in the past year for all kinds of purposes, not just the problems mentioned in the survey. And it was the young adults in tech-loving Generation Y (ages 18-30) who led the pack. Compared to their elders, Gen Y members were the most likely to use libraries for locate problem-solving information and in general patronage for any purpose.
Furthermore, it is young adults who are the most likely to say they will use libraries in the future when they encounter problems: 40 percent of Gen Y said they would do that, compared with 20 percent of those above age 30 who say they would go to a library.
"These findings turn our thinking about libraries upside down. Librarians have been asked whether the Internet makes libraries less relevant. It has not. Internet use seems to create an information hunger and it is information-savvy young people who are the most likely to visit libraries," noted Leigh Estabrook, dean and professor emerita at the University of Illinois, co-author of a report on the results.
She added that Internet users were much more likely to patronize libraries than non-users (61 percent vs. 28 percent).
This report is the fruit of a partnership of the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign and the Pew Internet & American Life Project. It was funded with a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, an agency that is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The survey was conducted between June and September 2007, among a sample of 2,796 adults, 18 and older. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
The focus of the survey was how Americans address common problems that might be linked to government. The problems covered in the survey: 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; and 10) becoming a citizen or helping another person with an immigration matter. …