Pew Research Center Announces New Research Initiative to Study the Changing Role of Public Libraries and Library Users in the Digital Age

Grant from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Will Support New Effort by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

Washington, D.C. (October 17, 2011) – The Pew Research Center today announced plans to study how the role of public libraries is changing in the digital age and how library patrons’ needs and expectations are shifting. The new research is funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with a 3-year, $1.4 million investment and will be conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Through national surveys, a series of focus groups in a diverse mix of communities, and special surveys of library patrons, the Pew Internet Project will examine how library users’ habits and tastes are changing in the age of e-books, widespread mobile connectivity and the existence of vast digital collections.

The new research will be launched as the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank based in Washington, DC, expands its research on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

“We’re thankful to the Gates Foundation for its generous support for this new effort, which will aid Pew Research Center’s mission to provide the public with high-quality and objective data on social trends and the issues of the day.” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. “As with all Pew Research Center reports, the new series will seek to inform, not to prescribe; it will provide facts to librarians, policymakers and the public to help them better understand how technology trends are shaping libraries and the communities they serve.”

“Few institutions have been more challenged by the rise of the internet and mobile connectivity than the local library,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project. “Many libraries have responded with innovations and sweeping overhauls in the way they deliver on their missions. With the Gates Foundation’s support, the Pew Internet Project will provide an in-depth, data-driven analysis of how libraries are responding to technology trends, and how communities’ expectations are changing at a time when library functions are in flux.”

“As technologies advance, people in our communities increasingly rely on digital information to find opportunities to improve their lives. We must make sure public libraries, which are critical community technology hubs, keep pace with that change and give patrons access to the resources they need,” said Jill Nishi, deputy director of U.S. Libraries and Special Initiatives at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We hope this research series will help community leaders and library staff better evolve services in today’s digital landscape.”


About the Pew Research Center,

The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. The center conducts public opinion polling, demographic studies, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. It does not take positions on policy issues. It is an independently operated subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

About the Pew Internet & American Life Project,

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project explores the impact of the internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life.