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«How the American Public Benefits Opportunity for All from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries The U.S. IMPACT Study A research initiative examining the ...»

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That Oceana used the public library to initiate her college search reflects the vital role played by libraries in helping youth identify colleges to which they are interested in applying, especially in the context of declining availability of 62 | Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries guidance counselors in high schools. This shift in responsibility for providing information about attending college was discussed by a librarian in Oakland,

California:

Our kids are already behind the rest of the nation, and our kids are already not going to college or don’t know how to take the steps to go to college because the other thing our schools are losing are the guidance counselors. So they come here for that information, and our teen librarians are providing resource lists for our teens of that kind of information that they’re no longer getting at the schools or through guidance counselors.

In all these examples, and many more heard from library technology users and librarians, the library’s online resources and supporting staff provide an important resource for those looking for opportunities to continue their learning beyond high school through formal educational programs. Without this access, many would be hard pressed to find the information they need to Applying to Programs pursue their educational goals and better their lives.

The study found that roughly 14 percent of public access technology educational users applied to a college degree or vocational certificate program (Appendix Table 17). Of adult applicants, 64 percent were accepted into a program (Appendix Table 18).

Nearly 14 percent of educational users applied to college or certificate programs.

Among all users, this activity is highest among those with the following characteristics:

• People with incomes below the poverty guidelines;

• Those of Latino or Hispanic origin;

• Those of mixed race, Blacks or African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders;

• People between the ages of 19 and 34 years; and

• People who speak a language other than English at home.

→Outcome:

• Over 64 percent of adult applicants (ages 19 years and older) were admitted to a college or certificate program after applying using library computers.

Users with household incomes below the poverty guidelines had the highest odds of using library computers to apply to college or certificate programs by a factor of 2.05 greater than those with incomes 300 percent or greater than the poverty guidelines. Income levels between 100 and 300 percent of the poverty Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries | 63 guidelines also had greater odds of looking for educational programs compared with users earning above 300 percent of the guidelines, though the difference was less than for those in poverty. Similar to other activities, certain types of

users were more likely to use library computers for this purpose:

• People of Latino or Hispanic origin had higher odds by a factor of 1.76 than those of non-Latino or non-Hispanic origin. Users of mixed race, Blacks or African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders had higher odds (by a factor of 1.91, 3.56, 2.81, and 2.76, respectively) than Whites for this type of use.

The odds of Asians applying for programs using library computers were nearly the same as those for Whites.

• By age group, 19–24 year old and 25–34 year old users show higher odds of applying to programs than other age categories when compared to those over the age of 75 (by a factor of 6.37 and 5.31, respectively).

• Those who speak a language other than English at home showed higher odds by a factor of 2.09 of using the library online resources for this purpose than those whose home language was English.

A staff person with the Head Start agency in Oakland, California, explains how the Oakland Public Library provides assistance to their clients in applying for

college through its computer and Internet services:

A part of what we do is family partnership, and the parents do let us know what their goals are, and part of the job of the family advocate is to help them move toward their goals… We send them down there [Oakland Public Library] to go online, and teach them to go online and send their applications through and get the information they need.

As seen in Figure 10, vocational programs were the most frequent type of program applied to by adult learners. Chloe, a 50-year-old high school graduate from Baltimore, was one such user. Currently homeless, Chloe had been frustrated in her ability to find work because she lacked an email address—she explained, “See, the jobs I used to get, you didn’t need an email account for.” During her first visit to the library computer center, a librarian helped her set up an email account which she immediately began to use to send out job applications. Chloe eventually decided to pursue formal vocational education and used the library’s computers to find a nursing program: “I looked it up last November for nursing on the Internet here, they told me everything, gave me the phone number; I called down there and started the school in November.” 64 | Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries Figure 10: Types of educational programs applied to by adults Because many programs now require or encourage online applications, this is a critical activity related to education, particularly for those with limited or no Getting Financial Aid access to online services elsewhere.





The complexity of finding a program increases when facing the need for financial aid, scholarships, child care, and other economic needs. The study found that, of educational users, 16 percent also used library computers to apply for financial aid (Appendix Table 19), with 51 percent of adult (ages 19 years and older) financial aid applicants actually receiving it (Appendix Table 20).

Over 16 percent of education users applied for financial aid using their library’s online resources.

Of users overall, those most likely to engage in this activity were:

• People with incomes below the poverty guidelines;

• Those of Latino or Hispanic origin;

• Those of mixed race, Blacks or African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders;

• People between the ages of 19 and 24 years; and

• People who speak a language other than English at home.

→Outcome:

• Over 51 percent of adult users (age 19 and older) who sought financial aid through the library computers, actually received funding.

–  –  –

• Users reporting educational attainment at the grade school level or who had some high school had higher odds of using the library for this purpose than those with a high school diploma by a factor of 2.05 and 2.12, respectively. Some of these users are currently enrolled in junior high or high school.

Many adult users appreciate the benefits of library technology for allowing them to participate in online educational programs. Joseph, the 43-year-old power user from Oakland, California, introduced in Section 6.1, saves time commuting to school by using library computers: “I take an online computer course from San Francisco. I don’t have to go over to San Francisco, I can do it right here in Oakland.” Abe, a 53-year-old supplemental user also from Oakland explained: “I go to a school where half of the courses are online, so then I’m doing either the online courses themselves or documents to support that.” Though Abe has Internet access at home, he usually uses a public library wireless Internet connection once or twice a week on his own laptop to do his homework because he finds the library less distracting than working from home and also because he can find books and magazines to support his classes. He

goes on to explain:

It definitely helps me with the studying. It helps me with the communication with some other people, because I’m less distracted that I would be at another location. So it’s not so much that I’m doing something like solving cancer or something like that by being here, but I’ve been more productive in certain things that I’ve done than if I had did it from another location… if I’m reading a course and they say, see if you can find a copy of a Warren Buffet book or something like that and I can be at the library and find a copy of a Warren Buffet book that wouldn’t have been available on the Internet and obviously wouldn’t be available if I was sitting at home.

A staff member from an Oakland business near the library described the use of

the library computing resources for her own online learning:

With me going to school on the Internet, it’s important to have [the computers] here near where I work. I’m doing online education for medical office assistant. The other staff use the computers here too.

68 | Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries Online degree programs, classes, and workshops have become a major delivery mode for education at all levels. Like the learners discussed in this section, library computers are an important resource to enable people without access to computers and the Internet to take advantage of the increasing numbers of educational opportunities offered online. Many libraries also provide exam proctors and other online resources that are important for all online learners, Using Library Computers for Homework regardless of the availability of computers and the Internet elsewhere.

The study found that, of educational users, 37 percent of the users use library computers to do homework for classes (Appendix Table 22).

The study found that 37 percent of educational users did homework for a class using library computers and Internet connections.

Overall, those users most likely to engage in this activity were:

• Those with incomes below the poverty guidelines;

• Those of mixed race, Blacks or African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders;

• Youth aged 14–18 years;

• Women;

• Those with a grade school education, some college, or a two year degree; and

• Those who speak a language other than English at home.

As in other activities related to education, users with household incomes below the poverty guidelines had higher odds of using library computers to do homework, by a factor of 1.78 greater than those with incomes 300 percent or higher than the poverty guidelines. Users with income between 100 and 300 percent of the guidelines also had higher odds of using library computers for this purpose than those earning higher incomes, though the odds ratios are lower than for users with poverty level income. Other differences in

characteristics of users for this activity include:

• Those of mixed race, Blacks or African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders had higher odds (by a factor of 1.77, 1.73, 1.57, and 2.11, respectively) than Whites for this type of use.

• Compared with users over the age of 75, all users except those 65-74 years old had higher odds of using library computers for doing homework. The odds of using library computers for homework are highest for 14–18 year olds, followed by those for 19–24 year olds; the odds for this type of use continue to decline with increasing age.

Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries | 69

• Doing homework is also the primary educational activity that shows women having a higher odds ratio of use than men (by a factor of 1.25);

this is likely a reflection of the higher percent of women enrolled in college compared to men.

• Compared to users with a high school diploma or GED, users with grade school, some college or a two-year degree had the highest odds of using library computers for homework by a factor of 2.16, 2.19, and 2.21, respectively.

• Those who speak a language other than English at home showed higher odds by a factor of 1.66 of using the library online resources for this purpose than those whose home language is English, potentially reflecting greater use of library computers for homework in immigrant households.

Many parents interviewed during library site visits discussed the importance of being able to help their children with their homework. For example, Hilda, a 37year-old woman with fourth grade education and limited English from Oakland, California, elaborated how library computers helped her get more involved in

her children’s education:

There are a lot of things I can do now… Like going on the computer and helping my children. Sometimes my son has homework to do on the computer, and I enter with him, and I’m with him there, and I have benefited a lot from that really.

One of the staff at an education training center in Marshalltown who works

primarily with the immigrant population agreed with this observation:

A lot of our students know [about the library’s computers] because they have kids and they come here and they use the computers. Actually I was talking to someone today and they said, ‘Yeah, my daughter does a lot of research at the library for various programs and projects at school and stuff like that.

Library computers are also used by students and parents to communicate with teachers and schools. A Marshalltown, Iowa, librarian described how students

use the library’s Internet access to check their accounts on the school site:

Student records are online and students all have their own accounts and parents have access. We have many students who come and check those. They check their grades, assignments that are due, and assignments that haven’t been turned in.



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