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Saturday, June 29, 2013

ALA 2013: The Myth and the Reality of the Evolving Patron: The RUSA President’s Program with Lee Rainie

The Myth and the Reality of the Evolving Patron: The RUSA President’s Program with Lee Rainie

This was a full house program in a large room, but it makes sense.  We need to know who our patrons are if we are going to serve their needs.

Speaker: Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project

DESCRIPTION: Just how well do you know the people who use your library? Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project and co-author of Networked: The New Social Operating System, shares the latest data about how our clientele are interacting with information technology. Learn about patron preferences and behaviors during this program. Then, join Mr. Rainie and library leaders on Sunday, 10:30-11:30 am, to discuss how the data may influence your library's future.

Before I start.  Here is the link to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. All of the data I refer to can be found in detail there. Library specific data has been gathered since 2011, all internet data since 2000. He will put up the slides on the site on Monday also.  I have blogged about their work before.

HANDOUTS JUST ADDED : scroll down to comments for ppt and a video of the presentation!


  • Pew is a "fact tank," non-partisan group that has been gathering data about Internet use for 13 years.
  • When started doing internet research didn't think of libraries as stakeholders for their work.  Then they realized that librarians were the primary stakeholder.  Have kept us in mind ever since.
  • He joked about us coming out at the end of a long day to gear about data.
  • Not think tank, they are a FACT TANK. They cannot advocate for anything.  News in the numbers. They have no positions. Completely neutral.  "Tell the truth, and trust the people." --Joseph N. Pew Jr.
  • Lee breaks the rules when he advocates for the word "Tweckle"-- to abuse a speaker on Twitter. Don't do it to him.  [Becky: He is engaging. Turns out he is from NYC area like me so that might be why I like him.]
  • Tech revolution has changed patron experiences and expectations in 5 ways:
    • Evolution driven by purpose of engagement/need-- the whole act of searching for info is so different, act of browsing different.
    • Evolution driven by life stage-- young library patrons are different from old, women from men.
    • Evolution driven by life stressors (time, demands, urgency).
    • Evolution driven by demographics.
    • Evolution driven by library innovation (supply side evolution)-- we deliver up new stuff and get feedback from patrons.  We are active in shaping evolution
  • Inertia is as much a force in our lives as innovation.  We have patrons who like the familiar relationship with the library and don't want any of it to change.  But then we have all the new tech people too.  These patrons want us to deliver all the new stuff.  Have the people all in between too.  Every time we want to try something new, and if it means giving up something we are good at, we will hear about it.  Old stuff works and hasn't passed from the scene.  We have to hit everyone's needs in every possible way with fewer resources.
  • Current state of patrons (see Lee's slides for details)
    • 53% of all Americans 16+ have visited a library or bookmobile in person in the past year. That's the big number. Then he broke it down specifically. Some college at least are more likely to use the library. And parents of minor children love us most.  Even further down, it is moms. 
    • Lee's advice: romance the moms in your community.  They will advocate for you.  They are deeply appreciative.
  • Major activities
    • borrow books
    • browse books
    • research topics of interest
    • get help from a librarian 
    • These are all 50% and higher
    • Young people really like to use the library to sit, read, study, or listen to media-- this surprised some reporters when they released their data.
  • Data on website users
  • Three tech revolutions and their impact on patrons and libraries that have happened since 2000 when we started gathering this data.  We are lucky. Most social scientists don't see one big revolution; we have seen three in 13 years.
  • #1: Internet/Broadband Revolution-- Began with dial up at home with 40% and now Broadband is 68% at home and dial up is down to 3%. This revolution means people use the Internet more. It became much more built into their every day lives. Reading online increased- newspapers, magazine, books.
    • But the biggest thing that happened is that people became content creators. [Like me] People began to take advantage of the 2 way nature of the Internet. Impact on the idea of expertise because now anyone could be published. More volume, velocity, and variety of information.
    • Rise of a "fifth estate" of civic and community actors using these new tools to rant and comment.
    • More arguments in the culture and libraries can function as "commons" and "referees." More need for critical thinking about data. Librarians need to make sense of it all. New pressure on us. But we were not trained to do this.
  • #2: Mobile Revolution: 91% of American adults have a cell phone.  Smartphone users just went over 50% mark. It is now "norm" to have smart phone. 1/3 have tablets.
    • Data is showing that people use smart phones and tablets in different ways.  Smart phones is for snacking-- fast hits. Tablets are more lean back experiences; not as participatory; more leisurely. Segregating into different uses.
    • Our mobile subscribers are just under 100% of population, but in some countries at or over 100%. In 7 countries at 200%.
    • Impact is that the attention zone changes. You live your life in a continuous state of partial attention.
    • But people can now get to the bottom of a topic they really like without getting credentials of becoming an expert.  They can find a lot of info on own. See this with health searches; especially the caregivers of sick people.
    • People can now get real time and just in time searches
    • Data is captured and manipulated, but data mergers the real world and virtual world.  Star Gazer app is an example.
  • #3: Social Networking Revolution: 61% of all adults use social media; 72% of internet users. 38% of seniors who are online are now using social networks; over 50% of seniors are online now. For 18-29 it is 92% of internet users who are on social media.
    • all kinds of people, from all ages are having social networking conversations
    • Slide with breakdown on different kinds of social networking sites and who uses them the most.
    • Facebook is 68% but there is a huge drop to the next one, Twitter at 18%.  Twitter gets so much press. The importance of Twitter is not in their size but they have more influence makers and media people more. Important for their influence not numbers.
    • Facebook is still big, but people are using it a bit less now. Use other sites for other purposes. Limits time on Facebook.
    • Impact on patrons and libraries: Composition and character of people's social networks changes. The size of the group we interact with is huge.
    • the network becomes an important channel of learning, trust and influence.
    • People use these larger networks to segment. You find the people to serve the needs to have at the time.  You use different people/networks for different needs. Before this, people had one physical network who had to serve all your needs.
    • Trust has shifted from institutions to networks.  Only libraries and firefighters have kept local trust.
    • Social networks act as
      • sentries-- they are gate keepers to information. The "Daily Me."
      • evaluators-- they ping their friends for help.  How can libraries be part of this. Inject ourselves into those conversations.
      • audience-- people see their followers and friends as an audience for all of the stuff we are posting.
  • All the things people do at libraries is being shaped by these new technologies. People hate the noise, the junk, the distractions, the temptations. This is where we can help.
  • The libraries used to bring all the stuff together for people to go get it in one place.  But in digital age info is abundant.  The new scarcity is time. So we need to now help people be maximally efficient and get the most meaningful experience.
  • Librarian Takeaways:
    • networks matter
    • tech mastery matters
    • life long learning is the norm
    • new divides emerge
    • new ethic are important
    • Technology is overlaid with life stages. But librarians knew this. The basic notion that different people are approaching you for different reasons hasn't changed. And that a patron's needs change over time too.
    • We have to do a better job promoting ourselves.  Only 1/5 say they know everything that we are doing. People love us; think well of us.  Think they are important even if don't use us.  Get the word out about what we do now.
    • Librarians need to think about how to save people time. They also like when you do special things for them.
  • When asked things that the library might offer, new services, blacks and hispanics were significantly higher than whites is saying yes, they want that.  2 to1 higher, sometimes more. This speaks to the work we have done with minority communities. They know us and appreciate us. 
  • Library Innovations:
    • 3D printing: Makerspaces
    • Heirloom seed collection
    • Online learning-- it is huge and people want it
Becky's comments: It was nice to see much of the data broken down by a person.  There is a continuation of this discussion tomorrow morning, but it is during another program I will be attending.

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