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The Impact of the Internet on Public Library Use: An Analysis of the Current Consumer Market for Library and Internet Services
Time:2022-02-17 17:27

George D’Elia, Corinne Jo¨rgensen, and Joseph Woelfel

School of Informatics, 528 Baldy Hall, State University of New York at Buffalo, Box 601020, Buffalo, NY 14260-1020

Eleanor Jo Rodger

Urban Libraries Council, 1603 Orrington Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201


The potential impact of the Internet on the public’s demand for the services and resources of public libraries is an issue of critical importance. The research reported in this article provides baseline data concerning the evolving relationship between the public’s use of the library and its use of the Internet. The authors developed a consumer model of the American adult market for information services and resources, segmented by use (or nonuse) of the public library and by access (or lack of access) to, and use (or nonuse) of, the Internet. A national Random Digit Dialing telephone survey collected data to estimate the size of each of six market segments, and to describe their usage choices between the public library and the Internet. The analyses presented in this article provide estimates of the size and demographics of each of the market segments; describe why people are currently using the public library and the Internet; identify the decision criteria people use in their choices of which provider to use; identify areas in which libraries and the Internet appear to be competing and areas in which they appear to be complementary; and identify reasons why people choose not to use the public library and/or the Internet. The data suggest that some differentiation between the library and the Internet is taking place, which may very well have an impact on consumer choices between the two. Longitudinal research is necessary to fully reveal trends in these usage choices, which have implications for all types of libraries in planning and policy development.