One-third of Americans online at libraries

Associated Press / March 26, 2010

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SEATTLE — A third of Americans 14 and older, or about 77 million people, use public library computers to look for jobs, connect with friends, do their homework, and improve their lives, according to a new study released yesterday.

The finding confirms what public libraries have been saying as they compete for public dollars to expand their services and high-speed Internet access: Library use by the general public is widespread and not just among poor people.

But researchers found that those living below the federal poverty line — families of four with a household income of $22,000 or less — had the highest use of library computers. Among those households, 44 percent reported using public library computers and Internet access during the past year.

Among those aged 14 to 24 in poor households, 61 percent used public library computers and Internet for education purposes, though young people were the biggest library computer users among all demographic groups.

Nearly half of the nation’s 14- to 18-year-olds reported using a library last year and a quarter of teens used the library at least once a week.

The study was paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by the University of Washington.