Cell Phones Are The New Mobile Library
January 1, 2013

Mobile Library Usage Detailed In New Pew Study

Enid Burns for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

It used to be that the mobile library was a bus or RV that pulled up in front of schools and other locations; to reach students, senior citizens and others who might not make it into a library building. Now the cell phone has become the mobile library, with digital book loans and other resources available on mobile devices.

Roughly 13 percent of those ages 16 and older have visited library websites, or accessed library services on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. That's according to "Mobile Connections to Libraries," a report released by Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The report finds that those most likely to have connected to a library site include parents of minors, women, and those with at least some college education. College education plays a significant factor in the likelihood for someone to access a library via a mobile device. Of those with a college education, 21 percent have accessed library sites on a mobile device, compared to 14 percent with some college education, 9 percent among high school graduates, and 9 percent with no high school diploma.

Parents with children under the age 18 are also more likely to visit a library site on a mobile device. Among parents in the survey, 19 percent accessed a library site, compared to 11 percent of non-parent participants.

Urbanites (16 percent) are more likely than suburban (13 percent) and rural (8 percent) residents to access library sites on mobile devices. The figures also mirror the adoption of smartphones and tablets, to a certain degree.

Those aged 18 to 49 are the most likely to visit a library site on a mobile device. Those in the 18 to 29 and 30 to 49 age groups tied at 18 percent who have accessed library sites, compared to 16 percent of those 16 and 17 years old; 10 percent of those 50 to 64; and 5 percent of those 65 and older.

Library website users tell a different story. Twenty-nine percent of women and 20 percent of men over the age 16 have visited a library website in the past 12 months. Parents are more likely to browse a library website than those without children. Thirty-two percent of parents have visited a library website in the past 12 months, and 46 percent have visited a library website; compared to 22 percent of non-parents visiting a library website in the past 12 months, and 36 percent of those who have visited a library website in general.

The survey finds that 25 percent of Americans in the 16 and older demographic who have visited a library website do so with some frequency. Three percent went every day or almost every day; 9 percent went at least once a week; 15 percent went several times a month; 27 percent went at least once a month; and 46 percent went less often.

There are several activities people take part in on library websites. Of those 25 percent of Americans who went to a library website in the past 12 months, here are some of the reasons they went. Eighty-two percent searched the library catalog for books including audiobooks and e-books, CDs and DVDs. As many as 72 percent got basic library information such as the hours of operation, location of branches and directions. Sixty-two percent reserved books and other media while 51 percent renewed a book or other media. An online database was used by 51 percent; 48 percent looked for information about library programs and events.

Research or homework help was obtained by 44 percent of the cohort. Thirty percent read book reviews or got book recommendations; another 30 percent checked whether they owed fines or paid fines online. Sign-ups for library programs and events was done by 27 percent. Twenty-two percent borrowed or downloaded an e-book, which can be read on a PC or Mac, as well as mobile devices such as a tablet or smartphone. Six percent of respondents used a library website to reserve a meeting room.