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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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Mary, a low income, 72-year-old woman in Baltimore, was going for an interview for a clerical position that she applied for using the Enoch Pratt computers the same afternoon that she interviewed for the case study. Jareb, a 49-year-old who resides at a homeless shelter in Fayetteville, shared his many successes in finding landscaping jobs for himself and friends on Craigslist using computers at the Marshalltown Public Library.

All these users managed to navigate the sometimes difficult process leading from preparing themselves for job searches, through the search process itself, to filing applications or submitting resumes, to the final steps of obtaining an interview and actually getting hired, with the help of the library personnel and the resources available at the library, both online and in their physical collections.

Getting Training for Job Skills Libraries provided job-related training through library computers to over 7 million people (23 percent of the users who reported using the library’s online resources for employment purposes) last year (Appendix Table 30). This training included formal and drop-in classes, one-on-one assistance with library staff, and self-led tutorials. These skills are often the prerequisites for jobs today, which more and more require employees who have basic computer skills and information literacy.

Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries | 85 Nearly 23 percent of users who use the library online resources for employment purposes obtain job-related training.

Of all library computer users, those most likely to use the library for this purpose are:

• People with incomes below the poverty guidelines;

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

• Those between the ages of 25 and 64 years;

• Men; and

• People who speak languages other than English at home.

People with household incomes less than the poverty guidelines had higher odds (by a factor of 2.02) of using the library for job-related training than those with incomes 300 percent or greater than the poverty guidelines. Other factors

associated with greater likelihood of use in this area are:

• Blacks or African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders had higher odds (by a factor of 2.35, 2.65, and 2.13, respectively) than Whites for this type of use.

Asians showed much lower odds ratios of engaging in this activity than Whites, by a factor of 0.50.

• Users of ages 25–64 years showed higher odds (by factors ranging between 1.47 and 1.79) of using the library for seeking jobs than those older than 75 years.

–  –  –

• As in other areas, the odds of those who speak a language other than English at home were higher (by a factor of 2.68) than those who speak English in their homes for this activity.

The types of job-related training that users described included many aspects of information literacy, such as learning how to use computers themselves, software and applications such as office productivity programs, and skills like searching and keyboarding. For example, Aidan, a 27-year-old Baltimore, Maryland, resident studying to be a paramedic, explained, “I’ve definitely learned a lot of stuff because they offer courses—and it’s free. It’s a good advantage to take them up on these free courses. Like the Excel and Word classes, I’ve definitely learned a couple of new skills.” In Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library, users who enroll in six-week courses in PowerPoint and other business 86 | Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries applications can receive certificates of completion that demonstrate their competencies in a concrete way.

Job-specific training for particular positions was also described by some users.

Sawyer, a 17-year-old high school student in Baltimore, explained: “I’m studying for the Army test, you go to GoArmy.com and they give you a practice test that you can use to better yourself.” An Oakland librarian also talked about training available through the library for specific job-skills, “The county advertised a month ago for an accounting assistant opening and the level of interest in our test preparation material, both in book form and on our databases, was staggering; so there’s a lot of demand now for that kind of help.” A staff member at the Baltimore library described the rewards of working with

employed people who were using library computers for work purposes:

The successes, really, to me are when someone says, “I have a job and if I don't learn X, Y, Z, I'm going to lose my job,” and they actually learn it and they keep it. We have a mutual relationship and they come in and they ask me stuff. It's no longer they have to sign up for a class, they just meet with me one-on one and we show them what they need to know for work. That's successful.

The library serves as a clearinghouse for many types of training offered by government and private agencies. The value the library adds is the immediate assistance available from trained staff, who can not only lead formal training sessions, but also provide one-on-one assistance for users who are working through their own learning process. The steps in becoming information literate are many, and having resources that support all stages of learning available both online and in person create a powerful environment for helping people stay current with the skills necessary for getting and keeping their jobs in the information age.





Doing Work In addition to the activities related to finding jobs and getting training, we found that 61 percent of those using library computers for employment purposes (almost 19 million people) use the library’s computers, Internet connections, and online resources to do work-related research (Appendix Table 31). Other work activities discussed in interviews and in comments left by survey respondents included keeping in touch with clients and students, printing out memos or other work documents, and posting materials to employer websites.

Many users also indicated that they used the library as a substitute office while traveling.

Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries | 87 In the study, 61 percent of users who used library computers for employment purposes carry out work-related research.

Of all library computer users, those most likely to use the library for this purpose are:

• People whose income falls below 200 percent of the poverty guidelines;

• Those of Latino or Hispanic origin;

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

• Those between ages 25 and 64 years;

• Men;

• Those with education more than a high school degree; and

• People who speak languages other than English at home.

Users with household incomes 200 percent or less than the poverty guidelines had higher odds (by a factor of 1.76 for those below the poverty threshold and

1.77 for those with incomes between 100 and 200 percent of the poverty threshold) of using the library for job-related research than those with incomes 300 percent or greater than the poverty guidelines. Other factors associated

with a higher likelihood of using library computers for this activity include:

• Those of Latino or Hispanic origin showed higher odds, by a factor of 1.46, than those of non-Latino or non-Hispanic heritage of using the library for work-related research. People of mixed race, Blacks or African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders also had higher odds (by a factor of 1.38, 2.17, 1.59, and 1.80, respectively) than Whites for this type of use.

• Users of ages 25–64 years showed higher odds (by factors ranging between 5.26 and 6.85) of using the library for job related research than those older than 75 years.

–  –  –

• People with some education beyond high school had higher odds of using the library for job-related research than those with a high school diploma.

• Finally, the odds of those who speak a language other than English at home were higher (by a factor of 1.52) than those who speak English in their homes for this type of activity.

88 | Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries An example of someone who uses the library to help them with research related to their work came from Cooper, a church minister in Marshalltown, Iowa, who describes his use of the library Internet connection to help contact his congregation and city officials, and to help him write his sermons: “As I’m writing my sermons, I like to research introductions, maybe find interesting stories from World War II or just other stories I can find to help me to introduce the topic I’m going to be speaking about on a given Sunday.” Other reported uses from the case studies included authors doing research to support writing of books and freelance articles on blogs, as well as marketing research.

For travelers, the case studies revealed that users rely on library computers to do research and other types of work while traveling as a replacement or

supplement for an office. A Fayetteville librarian described this typical behavior:

“[Some are] managing a business from a distance; travelers come here and hop on to one of our computers or bring their own laptops and stay in touch with a coworker.” A Marshalltown librarian described a woman from out-of-town who “comes in with her laptop, does her work, has her briefcase, and is here during normal business hours.” In Fayetteville, Arkansas, a user also describes the library

computers as a substitute office:

I had to write a memo today for getting an account, and since I don’t have a laptop or a portable printer I could come here and do it. It was very convenient because I needed to find out some information before I wrote the memo. So I could come here, write the memo, print it out, and then go to the meeting.

Commonly, activities of this nature included checking work email while away from the office and telecommuting. For example, a community college teacher from Baltimore, Maryland, reported that she had used the computers at her library to keep in touch with her students: “I teach at a community college, so I often stop by the library on the weekend to check email for messages from students and post information for them on the online program.” The use of the library computers for work-related activities clearly spans a wide range of activities and types of users, demonstrating the value people from all walks of life place on having a safe, comfortable, accessible venue for conducting their business, either as a primary office or a substitute while away from home.

Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries | 89 Most Prevalent Users for Entrepreneurship In addition to seeking employment, 7 percent of library computer users took advantage of library online services to start or manage their own business (Appendix Table 32). Of those users, over 46 percent helped someone else with business-related activities (Appendix Table 33).

Overall Entrepreneurship Use Of users, 7 percent used the library to start or manage a business. Of those using library computers and Internet connections for this purpose, 46 percent helped someone else with their entrepreneurial needs.

The users most likely to use the library for starting and managing a business are:

• People with household incomes below the poverty guidelines;

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

• People between the ages of 25 and 64;

• Men; and

• People who speak languages other than English at home.

Although differing slightly between employment activities and entrepreneurship

activities, the general characteristics of users are consistent in both areas:

• Lower income users (people earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines) have higher odds of using library computer and Internet access for entrepreneurship than those earning more than 300 percent of the threshold, with the highest odds occurring in those with household incomes below the poverty guidelines.

• The odds of people who are of mixed race, Blacks or African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders are higher (by a factor of 2.79, 2.45, 2.10 and 1.92, respectively) than Whites of using the library computers for these activities on behalf of someone else (Appendix Table 37).

• Unlike other areas studied, the odds of library computer use was evenly reflected across all working-age age groups with highest odds of use between the ages of 19 and 64 for employment activities and 25–64 for entrepreneurship activities (compared to those over 75)—a finding to be expected given that teenagers and retirees are less likely to be job seeking or employed.

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

• Women show lower odds (by a factor of 0.84) of engaging in employment activities and of using the library’s computers for entrepreneurship (by a factor of 0.65) than men in this area.

• The odds of respondents who indicated that a language other than English was spoken in their homes was greater by a factor of 2.10 for entrepreneurship activities than people who spoke English only at home.

Examples of use for business purposes range from Josephine and Mason in Baltimore, Maryland, who both do freelance writing from the library computers and use the Internet to do research for their writing, to Shawn in Marshalltown, Iowa, and Aidan from Baltimore, who indicated that they use the library computers to do online surveys for money or gift certificates.



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