A few takeaways from the new Pew Internet Report. “From Distant Admirers to Library Lovers – and Beyond…”

by | Mar 16, 2014 | 0 comments

A Few Takeaways from the New Pew Internet Report:

 From Distant Admirers to Library Lovers – and Beyond. A typology of public library engagement in America”

By Katina Strauch

Work by the Pew Research Center has shown that print books are still central to Americans’ library use, just as they remain central in Americans’ overall reading habits. In fact, though more Americans than ever are reading e-books (28% of adults ages 18 and older, as of January 2014), few have abandoned print entirely; just 4% of readers read e-books exclusively. 

Libraries loom large in the public imagination, and are generally viewed very positively: 90% of Americans ages 16 and older say that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community. 


Pew has designed a typology, a statistical analysis that clusters groups based on certain attributes. In this case, the typology was built around people’s use of libraries, their views about libraries and library services, and their access to libraries.

Group portraits


High engagement groups

  • Library Lovers (10% of the population)
  • Information Omnivores (20% of the population)

Medium engagement groups

  • Solid Center (30% of the population)
  • Print Traditionalists (9% of the population)

Low engagement groups

  • Not For Me (4% of the population)
  • Young and Restless (7% of the population)
  • Rooted and Roadblocked (7% of the population)

Non-engagement groups

  • Distant Admirers (10% of the population)
  • Off the Grid (4% of the population)

(See the full chart below*)


Most Americans do not feel overwhelmed by information today. Some 18% of Americans say they feel overloaded by information—a drop in those feeling this way from 27% who said information overload was a problem to them in 2006.

Acquiring information is often a social process in which trusted helpers matter: There are indications in the survey that people often feel they need their social networks and reliable experts to help them navigate some information-intensive activities.

Libraries score high ease of access and use—even among those who are not frequent users: Fully 91% of Americans ages 16 and older say they know where the closest library is, and 72% live within 5 miles of a library branch. Further, 82% of all Americans say library websites would be easy for them to use.

There are people who have never visited a library who still have positive views of public libraries and their roles in their communities.


*This chart is taken directly from report and provides full information about the characteristics of the group portraits. It is used by permission:


Public library engagement typology: Group overviews

Level of engagement with public libraries

Group name

% of U.S. population ages 16+

Major characteristics

High engagement

~80% used
a public library in the past year

Library Lovers


Members of this group report frequent personal use of public libraries, along with high levels of household library use. This group includes many parents, students, and job seekers; members tend to be younger, with higher levels of education.

Information Omnivores


This group has the highest rates of technology use, as well as the highest levels of education, employment, and household income. They have high levels of personal and household library use, but their visits to library are less frequent than Library Lovers.

Medium engagement

~50% used
a public library in the past year

Solid Center


Centered in smaller towns, this group is similar to the general U.S. population in most measures. About half have used a public library in the past year; most view libraries positively.

Print Traditionalists


This group contains the highest proportion of rural, Southern, or white respondents. It is similar to Solid Center in many measures, except that its members tend to live farther away from libraries. They also have positive views about libraries’ roles in communities.

Low engagement

~30% used
a public library in the past year

Not For Me


This group is distinguished from other low engagement groups by its members’ strikingly negative views of libraries. In particular, they are far less likely than most other groups to say public libraries are important to their communities.

Young & Restless


This is a relatively young group, and few of its members have lived in their neighborhoods for very long. Their most striking feature is that only 15% know where the nearest public library is located.

Rooted & Roadblocked


This group generally views public libraries positively, but many face hurdles in their lives that may prevent them from engaging with libraries. They tend to be older, and many are living with disability or have experienced a recent illness in their family.


Have never personally used a public library

Distant Admirers


Though members of this group have never personally used a public library, they view libraries quite positively—perhaps because many say other family members use them. Many also say that various library services are important to them and their families. They tend to be older and are often living in lower-income households.

Off the Grid


Members of this group tend to be disengaged from their communities and social life in many ways. Many live in rural areas, and just 56% use the internet. Most have very low household incomes, as well as low levels of education—only one in ten has graduated from college.

Source: Pew Research Center’s Library Services Survey of 6,224 Americans 16 & older conducted July 18-September 30, 2013.



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