Reflection on Hyperlinked Environments — User Research from Pew

by sgarcia

Image Source: American Libraries Magazine

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about how the technology sector is impacting the hyperlinked library, specifically in regards to the creation of new library services and policies. While looking over several studies from Pew Research Center, I started to notice several distinct trends emerging. 

Device ownership trends

A 2015 Pew Research Center study of 1,907 American adults discovered the following:

-The number of U.S. adults who own smartphones has risen from 35% in 2011 to 68% in 2015. 

-The number of U.S. adults who own a computer has stayed relatively stable with 71%  in 2004 compared to 73% in 2015 (Anderson, 2015).

Implications for libraries:

A vast majority of U.S. adults have smartphones and computers which enable them to access the internet. It’s fortunate that we are in a digital age where it has never been easier to communicate with the community members who never step foot in a library. Libraries are no longer bound by their physical brick-and-mortar spaces. These digital devices provide an opportunity to virtually bring the library into peoples’ homes. This overabundance of connectivity highlights a tenet of the hyperlinked library — the library is everywhere. Retail giants have long acknowledged the power of e-commerce for reaching out to customers in their homes. For instance, 78% of internet users agree that online shopping is convenient and 68% agree that it saves them time (Horrigan, 2008). If we can extrapolate from these consumer findings to the experience of library users, we can assume that people value two things: convenience and their time. While libraries will always have an important function as community spaces, I think it is equally important to acknowledge the amazing potential to reach users through the digital devices in their homes. The ubiquity of digital devices enables libraries to connect directly to users who may not come into the library because of busy schedules, physical disabilities, or other factors limiting mobility. Libraries can increases services which provide e-book access to library materials and streaming services. Furthermore, this can be a great way to engage in long tail marketing strategy since digital repositories aren’t confined by the physical limitations of shelf space, and therefore can offer a greater variety of niche content which attracts new users.

Social media trends

A 2015 Pew Research Center compilation of 27 surveys of adult internet users found the following:

-35% of all those 65 and older use social media in comparison to 2% in 2005.

-77% of those ages 30-49 use social media in comparison to 8% in 2005.

-90% of young adults (ages 18-29) use social media in comparison to 12% in 2005 (Perrin, 2015).

A 2015 Pew Research Center study of 1,907 U.S. adults discovered the following:

-Facebook is the most popular social media site for adult internet users. 72% of adult internet users have a Facebook, compared to 31% who use Pinterest, 28% who use Instagram, 25% who use LinkedIn, and 23% who use Twitter

-70% of Facebook users log on daily and 43% log on several times a day (Duggan, 2015)

Another 2015 Pew Research Center study which focused on the social media use of teens (ages 13-17) found the following:

-92% of teens go online daily and 24% go on “almost constantly”

-Facebook is the most popular social media site among teens; 71% of teens use the site. 52% of teens use instagram, 41% use Snapchat, 33% use Twitter, and 14% use Tumblr (Lenhart, 2015).

Implications for libraries

Social media use is on the rise and Facebook is leading the way as the primary site people use to connect. What does this mean for libraries? While reading over these reports I recalled a post from Tame the Web, “Embracing Service to Teens.” In this post, Michael Casey and Michael Stephens discuss how a library in Mishawaka, IN, banned Facebook because of “fights, lewd language and cars being blocked in the parking lot by teenagers.” Presumably, banning Facebook would discourage the teens from coming to the library and causing a “disturbance.” This decision highlights what libraries shouldn’t do. This library made an accurate observation — teens seem to come to the library to use Facebook. Instead of embracing Facebook’s popularity as a way to bring in or maintain teen library users, they banned it and eliminated a valuable resource that teens were coming into the library to use. Furthermore, since Facebook is the most popular social media among all age demographics, they may have discouraged a visit from older library users. Bringing people into the library, no matter what their reason, is an altogether good thing. A library user, whether they are old or young, might pay a visit to the library to check their Facebook messages, but then also decide to check out what new graphic novels came in, or run into a friend who recommends them a good book or DVD to check out. Bringing people into libraries should be our aim, not eliminating the access to services which might encourage them to visit in the first place.


Anderson, M. (2015). Technology device ownership. Retrieved from

Casey, M. & Stephens, M. (2008). Embracing services to teens. Retrieved from

Duggan, M. (2015). Demographics of social media users. Retrieved from

Horrigan, J. (2008). Online shopping. Retrieved from

Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, social media & technology overview 2015. Retrieved from

Perrin, A. (2015). Social media usage: 2005-2015. Retrieved from