Skip to content Skip to navigation

Access to Library Technology helps Washington County Residents in multiple ways

For immediate RELEASE
Date: May 1, 2015

Contact: Jodi Nielsen, Senior Program Educator
Washington County Cooperative Library Services
www.wccls.org
503-846-3235

Access to Library Technology helps Washington County Residents in multiple ways. 82% of survey respondents believe library technology access is important for their communities.

Washington County, Oregon: Between March 2 and April 10, 2015, Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS) conducted a survey of 4,478 people to better understand how community members use and benefit from free access to computers and the Internet through their public libraries. WCCLS and its 15 member libraries offer 377 computers, wireless Internet, and technology assistance for all members of our community. WCCLS member libraries are open up to 359 days per year. Of the total survey participants who reported visiting the library in the past year, 59%, or 2,623 people, reported that they had used a public access computer or the library's wireless network during their visits.

 Highlights from the survey include:

  • 82% of total participants felt that public computing resources were important or very important to have available in the community, and 42% felt these resources were important to them personally.
  • 55% of total participants said that they accessed library resources through a handheld mobile device such as a cell phone, eReader or tablet computer.
  • 21% of public technology users indicated they had used library public access technology for employment needs. 16% reported searching for a job online. 11% applied for a job by submitting a resume or filling out an online job application.
     
  • Patrons stated they used library computers to:
    • Take a test required by a staffing agency. My library was the resource I turned to when I needed a windows based computer with certain JavaScript capabilities.
    • Take the test to get my food handler’s card and to print out the card for my employer
    • for internet access to get to my work account
    • Use the Learning Express Library to access the career center. In the Career Center, I accessed practiced exams as I prepared to take tests and meet requirements for an Oregon state teaching license.
  • 23% of public technology users used library computers for educational activities. 31% reported doing research for a class, completing coursework or homework using public access technology.
     
  • Patrons’ comments about how they used library computers included:
    • I am a fulltime nursing student therefore I rely on the library’s resources to complete my heavy workload. Every week I am in here, sometimes 2-4x a week using the internet connection to study.
    • I’m a teacher and I’m always telling my families to use the WONDERFUL resources for FREE at our public libraries. My own family spends much time at the library. My niece refers to it as her “natural habitat.” :)
    • Having computer access to work on college course work at the Cornelius Library has made a huge difference in my life. I wouldn’t be able to keep up in my classes otherwise. The staff is very helpful as well!
    • To help my Adult Literacy students fill out forms.
  • 23% of public technology users reported using library computers for civic engagement purposes. 19% kept up with current news and events. 13% reported learning about a political activity, candidate, or social cause; and 8% got involved with an activity, candidate or cause. 
     
  • Patrons’ comments about how they used library computers included:
    • One of my main reasons for attendance of the library and use of the Internet there is for the English-Spanish Intercambios.
    • To help refugees to learn to use library resources and apply for jobs
    • To print an agenda for a board meeting
    • Find community resources for the homeless
    • Scanned court documents for filing in another county
    • People who pay taxes now must have access to broadband Internet to file tax forms!
  • 26% of public technology users reported using library resources to stay in touch with family and friends and to build and maintain social networks. 23% of those engaging in this activity were between the ages of 35 – 44.
     
  • Patrons stated they used library computers to:
    • Stay in touch with my family via skype when I still had no internet and phone at home.
    • Research the location, planning and related communication for a family reunion. Applied for City permit to use an area in a public park.
    • Use the Wi-Fi for Google Maps – 10 minutes on the Wi-Fi can save me an hour of driving and gas.
    • Shop for a husband – lol!

46% of public access technology users also received help from a librarian when using the computers or Internet at their local WCCLS member library. 94% of users have access to the Internet at home, school, or work but still choose to use the library's technology. This shows that libraries offer critical resources and services even as people increasingly have their own Internet connections and devices. Reasons for this include lack of high speed access at home, gaps in access, household competition for access, or convenient library access during free time and while out and about in the community.

These are only a few of the impacts from the library-provided public technology access and training. Washington County Cooperative Library Services' ability to sustain quality technology services that provide opportunities for all residents is an important community resource. Patrons use library technology for a broad spectrum of reasons including education, employment, entrepreneurship, health and wellness, eGovernment, civic engagement, eCommerce, and social inclusion. Patrons value the library-provided services even if they have Internet access elsewhere. In addition to answering survey questions, participants provided a wealth of comments and suggestions. WCCLS and member libraries are beginning to analyze those and prioritize potential changes through the Cooperative planning process. More detailed survey results may be found at: wccls.org/_pdf/impactsurvey.pdf.

The Impact Survey was created by the University of Washington’s Information School, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is the first large-scale investigation of the impact of library technology use across the U.S. Over 870 public libraries have participated in the Impact Survey to date. By participating in such a broad-based study, WCCLS can compare service outcomes with libraries across the nation.

The Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS) includes the Banks Public Library, Beaverton City Library (and Murray Scholls branch), Cedar Mill Community Library (and Bethany branch), Cornelius Public Library, Forest Grove City Library, Garden Home Community Library, Hillsboro Public Libraries (Main and Shute Park), North Plains Public Library, Sherwood Public Library, Tigard Public Library, Tualatin Public Library, West Slope Community Library, and the WCCLS Outreach to Homebound.

 

The Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS) includes: Banks Public Library, Beaverton City Library, Beaverton City Library @ Murray Scholls, Cedar Mill Community Library, Cedar Mill Community Library @ Bethany, Cornelius Public Library, Forest Grove City Library, Garden Home Community Library, Hillsboro Public Libraries (Main and Shute Park), North Plains Public Library, Sherwood Public Library, Tigard Public Library, Tualatin Public Library, and West Slope Community Library. Two specialty libraries are also a part of the Cooperatives library card service — the Oregon College of Art & Craft and the Tuality Health Education Resource Center.