Public libraries put 44 percent below the poverty line online
March 31st, 2010

Young and low-income Americans rely on public libraries to connect to the internet. Education comes in as a strong second to social networking in how they use public library internet services. The MacArthur Foundation SPOTLIGHT reviews a new report, which includes these key conclusions:

* While social networking was the most popular use of the internet at public libraries, education was a strong second—especially for young adults from low-income households: Among young adults age 14 to 24 in households below the federal poverty line, 61 percent used public library computers and the internet for educational purposes.

* Young adults in general are the heaviest users of internet access at public libraries: Nearly half of all 14- to 18-year-olds (an estimated 11.8 million users) reported using a library computer during the last year, and 25 percent of that group did so at least once a week. Teenagers reported that one of the most common uses of library computers was to do homework.

* More than 32 million visitors use library computers for a variety of educational activities, including searching for and applying to GED and graduate programs, completing online courses and tests, and applying for financial aid. More than half of library patrons who used library computers to seek financial aid received funding.

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