Many of you noticed when logging onto our website a banner asking you to take the Impact Survey. First, we would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey. Surveys like the Impact Survey help libraries and librarians across the country understand more about our user’s information needs. The Impact Survey is the result of research initiative from the University of Washington’s Information School with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The purpose of the survey is to better understand how technology impacts library users. A library’s purpose is to serve its community and libraries are constantly striving to better understand their users so we can become better at what we do.
The Impact Survey collected data in the following fields: general use of library and online resources, education, employment, entrepreneurship, health and wellness, eGovernment, civic engagement, eCommerce, and social inclusion. All responses were anonymous and used to create a profile for our library that reflects the information needs of all our unique users.
The results of the survey overwhelmingly revealed that our library users feel that technology, especially computer access for the public is very important for the community. Over a two week period a total of 310 people completed the survey. 56% of Massanutten Regional Library’s survey respondents use our public access computers. 42% of our patrons visit the library once a week or more frequently. 74% of users have access to technology elsewhere but choose to use the computers available at the library for certain tasks and information searches. Some of the most common tasks are using library printers, checking email, and utilizing an Internet search engine. Many survey respondents indicated that employment searches, health & wellness, eCommerce, and social inclusion (using email to stay connected with family & friends, social media, and other forums) are frequent tasks completed at the library. Over 69% of users received help from library staff or volunteers when using a library computer and 92.5% found library staff to be very helpful with their technology related questions. My personal favorite result from the survey was that 58.9% indicated that public access computers available at the library are important to the community. This suggests that the majority of the respondents realize just how much technology impacts our daily lives and how so many people rely on these types of services.
Something all of us knew who work at the library, but now have quantifiable data is that many of our library patrons who use the computers use them to complete job applications and work on resumes. In fact 34% of the survey respondents indicated that they have used our computers for employment activities. Even better news is that 7% of the survey respondents who completed an application here at the library were hired! The library is continually evolving and research indicates that the library for many is more than just books and programs (although we do have plenty of books and great programming for everyone to enjoy). In addition to employment activities, many of our patrons use our computers for homework and continuing education. 74% of the respondents took an online class, did research or did homework for a class.
Another area that the survey focused on was health and wellness. 21% of users reported learning about diet or nutrition; of those, 81% made a change to their diet. The Internet has made profound impacts on our daily lives and the way we consume information. It is great to see that many people have found online resources that make positive impacts on their lives.
The library has many reasons to exist within a community. For some, it is used simply for the great assortment of books that we offer. For others, the library is place where lifetime literacy is established through children’s programming and a great collection of youth materials. Many use the library for public access computers and the assortment of databases and online resources that we offer. The common thread among all library users is that the library is a great equalizer, a place where anyone can walk in and engage with topics that interest them. A library serves the community and we are proud to serve anyone who walks through our doors. Computers and Internet use have become ubiquitous to everyday life and we glad to be able support our community with excellent resources in technology. Finally, we would like to thank everyone who submitted comments and suggestions at the end of the survey. We are reviewing each comment and looking at ways to improve our services to you.