December 30, 2007

The new information order

Where do you turn when you have a problem? Family and friends? Experts? Internet searches? Libraries?

We asked those and a variety of other questions on a recent survey and found some surprising things. In a report we issued this afternoon, we found that for a cluster of problems with government connections more people turn to the internet than to experts or family members.

This preference for the internet isn’t the case for every person’s every problem. But it was interesting to see how much the internet has moved from the periphery of people’s lives a decade ago to the center of their information environment now.

Our survey with the University of Illinois was funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services and was particularly aimed at trying to find out how libraries and government agencies might function in the new information order.

One major surprise was our finding that those who live in the Gen Y generation cohort are more likely than their elders to use libraries when they face problems. Those in Gen Y are also more likely to patronize libraries for all kinds of reasons.

In a way, this should not be a shocking finding to those who have watched their local library evolve in recent years. It’s not true for all libraries, but there are plenty of examples of libraries being early adopters of Web 2.0 functions like blogs, social networking, and internet-based gaming.

These findings should spark some interesting reaction in the days ahead and at the upcoming American Library Association meeting in Philadelphia that begins on January 11.