Study Finds Many People use DC Public Library Computers to Find Jobs

A recent study shows that 40 percent of computer users at the D.C. Public Library use the computers to research and apply for jobs and 20 percent of them report that they found jobs as a result.

“When job applications for Home Depot, Target and a number of federal and local government programs are available only online, it makes sense that more and more people turn to the library to access the Internet in order to apply for jobs,” said D.C. Public Library Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper, who testified to the results of the study at today’s FY2011 budget hearing.

Overall, 62 percent of the people surveyed reported that they either used the D.C. Public Library’s public access computers or the library’s WiFi on their personal computers.

These findings are part of a first-ever national study, conducted by the University of Washington Information School, measuring the usage of public library computers across the country.  

Over the past four years, as part of its ongoing transformation, the library increased the number of computers available to the public from 100 in 2006 to 600 this year.  And usage is expected to more than double going from computers being used 285,000 times in 2006 to a projected 620,000 times by the end of this year.

The study, titled “U.S. Impact Study: Web Survey Results,” measured public library computer usage in areas of employment/entrepreneurship, health, education, ecommerce, civic engagement, and social inclusion/networking.

Other local findings include:  
  • Nearly 40 percent of people surveyed use computers in the library to keep up with international or hometown news for themselves or for someone else.
  • Thirty-two percent use public library computers for essential government services such as filing tax returns, applying for Medicare benefits or getting immigration forms.
  • Nearly 30 percent use public library computers or the library’s Internet access for education or learning. Fifty percent of youth use computers for homework and 10 percent of adults use computers to learn about degree or certificate programs.
  • Forty-five percent use public library computers to find health information for themselves or others. Twenty-four percent use computers to learn about specific illnesses, diseases or medical issues. 
  • Forty-four percent use computers for a social purpose such as social networking, or communicating with or emailing family and friends. 
More than 400 people participated in the survey in D.C. with 50,000 surveys completed nationwide.  The national study was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

A copy of the D.C. results is available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/30853631