The U.S. economic boom was replaced by what has been called “The Great Recession” (New York Times, March 2009). In January 2010
when we conducted the most recent study, the U.S. employment rate topped 9.8% (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2010). It remains at over 9% in January 2011. The number of Americans who had experienced a negative job impact (lost a job, had to take a job at a lower salary, worked a second job, etc.) during the recession was even larger. Our research shows that the number is double the
unemployment rate, at 20%. A third of American families had at least one family member who experienced a negative job impact during the recession.
While the economy was declining, the online activities of the information consumer were increasing. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of Americans were online, up 12% from 2005 (Internet World Stats, September 2010). comScore reported that a quarter of U.S. mobile phones are now smartphones that provide Internet access, a growth of 1,050% from 2005. Many of the online practices of young
information consumers in 2005 were across all ages in 2010. Over 90% of Boomers used e-mail and search engines, and over 50% used a social networking site.
In 2010, 68% of information consumers had a library card. For those Americans economically impacted, that rate was even higher—81%. Information consumers who have experienced a job impact were not just getting library cards at greater rates; they were using the library for more services and more often in 2010. And their perception of library value was significantly different from those not impacted—their perceived value was higher.
Today and beyond
Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community reports the changes and evolutions in the information consumer’s life in the last five years, with particular attention given to the actions, attitudes and perceptions observed in 2005. We know from other research that The Great Recession has reshaped attitudes and practices in many lifestyle areas, and we wanted to better understand the impact on the information consumer’s use of online information and the library. We studied the differences and similarities between information consumers who had experienced a negative job impact in the recession and those who did not. And as the “digital age divide” becomes less distinct, we turned our attention to better understanding if the attitudes of the 2010 information consumer were now ageless or if age differences still played a distinct role in how we perceive and use information — and libraries.