September 23, 2014

Pew: More Patrons Using Mobile Devices to Access Library Websites


Thirteen percent of people aged 16 and older in the United States have used a mobile device to visit a library website or otherwise access library services, according to a national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. This percentage has more than doubled since 2009 the report notes, citing an earlier survey conducted by researchers at the University of Washington.

In response to the growing popularity of tablets and smartphones, libraries have been making an effort to ensure that the services they offer online will work on mobile devices, said Sarah Houghton, director of the San Rafael Public Library and advisor for this study.

“In the past couple of years, more librarians have become vocal to vendors about services that don’t work on mobile or don’t work very well on mobile…saying, if you don’t have a version that works on tablets, we’re not going to subscribe next year,” she said.

People most likely to have connected to a library website using a mobile device included parents of young children (19%), women (16%), and college graduates (21%).

While 13 percent may sound low in communities with high levels of mobile adoption, Houghton said that the figure sounds about right for a national average.

The survey also found that 39 percent of Americans ages 16 and older had visited a library’s website using either a desktop computer or mobile device at any point in the past. These website visits were also led by parents (46%), women (44%), and people with college educations (60%).

And, one quarter of Americans 16 and older said that they had visited a library website at least once during the past year. Of that group, nine percent reported visiting the site at least once per week, 15 percent said they visited the site several times per month, and 27 percent said they went at least once per month.

The most popular reasons for visiting the website, using any means of access, included searching the library’s catalog for books and other materials (82%), getting basic information such as branch locations an hours of operation (72%), reserving books and other materials (62%), renewing books (51%), using an online database (51%), looking for information about library programs or special events (48%), or getting research or homework help (44%).

Check here for additional thoughts on this data from infoDOCKET’s Gary Price.

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.


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