استفاده از امکانات محاسبات عمومی توسط کاربران کتابخانه : جمعیت شناسی، انگیزش ها، و موانع
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|5108||2013||9 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Government Information Quarterly, Volume 30, Issue 1, January 2013, Pages 110–118
Public libraries play an important part in the development of a community. Today, they are seen as more than store houses of books; they are also responsible for the dissemination of online, and offline information. Public access computers are becoming increasingly popular as more and more people understand the need for internet access. Using a series of surveys conducted in 12 libraries across the state of Michigan, the current study is a step towards understanding why the computing facilities are widely used, and what are the motivations behind their use. In addition, barriers and other factors that hinder usage are also discussed. The findings from this study will help policy makers and library administrators evaluate the current allocation of scarce resources, help them promote greater use of the library's resources, and guide their future course of action. The study is conducted as part of a federally funded public computing center grant.
As the internet becomes increasingly essential in American society, public computing facilities in libraries bridge a critical gap between those who have internet access and those who lack it. As of October 2010, 40% of Americans reported having no broadband connection, and close to 30% of the households had no internet access (National Telecommunications & Information Administration, 2011). Seven percent have dial-up but not broadband connections (Smith, 2010). The lack of access to a broadband connection can limit access and effective usage of many economic and social resources, such as online learning, e-government applications, health information, employment opportunities online, and basic communication functions such as email and web browsing (Federal Communications Commission, 2011). This void in broadband and internet facilities is often fulfilled by public computing facilities in libraries that provide computers and free broadband internet access, regardless of the individual's ability to pay. Far from being made obsolete by online information sources, libraries are becoming more critical in the information age. A study by the American Library Association (ALA, 2011) found that 40% of library computer users used the facility for career and employment needs. Close to 32 million people (42%) used the library resources for their education and training needs. A study by the Gates Foundation reported that 77 million Americans depend on the library's resources for their internet use and the ones that are below the poverty line depended on its resources even more (Becker et al., 2010). Community centers facilities in general, and libraries in particular, have been struggling to keep pace with the increasing need for public computing facilities. The recent economic crises have only increased the patron demand for public computers in libraries that are serving as “America's first responders to the economic crisis” (Rettig, 2009, n.p.). Library budgets have at best remained flat in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2007–2009, with three-fifths of library systems reporting flat or declining operating budgets in 2011 (Hoffman, Bertot, Davis, & Clark, 2011), and 15% of the libraries reducing their open hours with urban libraries especially hard-hit by the cutbacks (Hoffman et al., 2011). At the same time, demand for public access computers increased year-over-year in 70% of libraries and nearly two-thirds of library outlets are the only source of free internet access in their communities, with over four-fifths of all libraries providing broadband internet access to the public. The need to improve public access in the U.S. is further underscored by two issues: the nation's mediocre standings in international broadband rankings (International Telecommunication Union, 2010 and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2009) and the disparities in the internet access that have persisted between urban and rural, majority and minorities, high income and low income, young and old, and highly educated and less educated citizens (Advanced Communications Law and Policy Institute, 2009, LaRose, Bauer, et al., 2011 and National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 2011). To address these infrastructure needs, the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) (2009) allocated $7.2 billion to extend broadband internet access in underserved and unserved areas (Pub.L. No. 111-5, Sec. 6001, 2009). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded $3 billion of this total through a program administered by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) called the Broadband Investment Program (BIP). The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded the balance of the funds through its Broadband Telecommunication Opportunities Program (BTOP). The BTOP funds a wide range of projects including infrastructure construction, community broadband applications through community computing centers, and sustainable adoption projects intended to impact the use of broadband technology for the benefit of health care, education, children, employment, and public safety (LaRose et al., 2011). Over 250 BTOP awards were made across all 50 states to further community computing centers, basic infrastructure construction, and community interventions to promote sustainable internet adoption. One of the main purposes of the BTOP is to extend broadband access to the segments of the population who do not currently enjoy full access to broadband (e.g., low income, minorities, senior citizens, small businesses), either by increasing the availability of broadband to the home or through the provision of public computing facilities by community anchors such as schools and libraries. The present study focuses on one of these community anchors – libraries – that were funded as part of the BTOP initiative to add public access computers. Despite the federal investments, library administrators are unsure if the ARRA, BTOP and other initiatives such as the e-rate program (Funds for Learning, 2012) and changes in the Universal Service fund allocations (FCC, 2011) can keep pace with the growing demand for public computing facilities. Prior to the ARRA, a longitudinal analysis of public libraries survey data suggested that libraries were struggling to cater to an escalating demand for public computing facilities (Becker et al., 2010). More recently, findings from the Public Library Funding and Technology Access project noted that libraries are facing the dual challenges of shrinking state and local-level funding, and the burgeoning demand for service (Bertot & Jaeger, 2011). Although the large-scale studies discussed above are providing an understanding of the range and amount of public computing services being offered to library patrons, little is known about what motivates patrons to use library computers beyond the commonly known demographic differences. Understanding the psychological drivers of public computing use complements interesting facts about usage along with inferences from the demographic data. In light of the pressing need to use the limited resources more efficiently, understanding the computing needs from the patrons' perspective can also help policy makers and library directors plan the provision of services and facilities more efficiently. From the national policy perspective, it is important to understand the relationship between the provision of internet services and the demand for public access so that appropriate and efficient strategies for sustaining broadband adoption may be devised. The current study fills a gap in our understanding of the role of public computing facilities by examining them from the perspective of the library patrons. The paper has two foci. First, the study presents the demographics and usage patterns of library patrons. Second, the study analyzes the motivations to use public computing facilities, and the barriers to their utilization. The research is guided in part by the framework of the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) to predict future utilization of public computing facilities. Policy recommendations are presented accordingly. 1.1. Libraries and the digital divide Libraries serve an important role in bridging the nation's digital divide between the haves and the have-nots of internet facilities. Librarians and library administrators have a considerable responsibility and are increasingly called upon to fill the role of facilitators of computer use in the library whether or not they have received formal training to disseminate IT information. Previous research has examined the different aspects of internet use by library staff such as the attitudes of public library staff to the use of internet (Spacey, Goulding, & Murray, 2004), the impact of the internet on adoption of website resources (Kim, 2010), and the market for internet and library services (D'Elia, Jorgensen, Woelfel, & Rodger, 2002). There have been relatively few studies about internet usage patterns in public libraries from the perspective of the patrons and these have focused primarily on demographic differences between users and non-users of public computing facilities. A Gates Foundation study by Gordon, Moore, and Gordon (2003) that studied public access computers and libraries in poor neighborhoods directed attention towards the importance of demographic variables such as income, education and ethnicity in determining internet access and use. In a study that examined broadband use in rural communities, interviews with library patrons indicated that in some cases library access was being used in place of home access, including instances in which home computers had been abandoned in favor of library computers (LaRose, Steinfield, Pompliano, Gustad, & Du, 2007). The study also found that patrons used library computers as a supplement to home computers for applications that their slower (or less secure) home connections did not support. With the growing number of people using public computing facilities and the potential of these facilities to narrow the digital divide, knowledge of internet usage patterns by the patrons can inform library administrators on how best to provide public access and allocate scarce resources accordingly. One research agenda that the current study has is to construct a fuller profile of library patrons who are using the public computing facilities. Beyond the most frequently examined demographic information such as gender, age, income and education, the study also examines geographic information such as the residency status of the library patron as well as usage patterns such as internet access points, reliance on library computers and the applications that are accessed on the library computers. This expanded user profile will help administrators in their allocation of scarce resources to benefit those who are most reliant on public computing facilities. By distinguishing library patrons in terms of their needs, resources can be channeled to the appropriate communities, in which the libraries are located, and not visitors or those who merely use the facilities as a convenience. Thus, we pose the following research question: RQ1: What groups of library patrons are most reliant on public computing facilities? Libraries have been found to be particularly important for people who are unable to gain access to the internet in their homes or at other locations. A recent study found that 44% of people in households living below the federal poverty line ($22,000 a year for a family of four) use public library computers and internet access (Becker et al., 2010). The same study also found that among young adults (14–24 years of age) living below the federal poverty line, 61% use public library computers and internet for educational purposes. Other studies have found that lower income patrons were more likely to use library computers for job searches (Brustein, 2009, Gronowska, 2009, Saulny and Cullotta, 2009 and Yates, 2009). As such, this study poses the following research question: RQ2: How does income affect the patrons' dependence on public computing facilities? 1.2. Barriers that affect usage Besides the commonly examined demographic variables such as income, age, gender, race, and education, other attributes of library patrons can also help library administrators understand the needs of the clients that they are catering to. The residential status and library membership of the patrons, their alternative internet access points as well as the online applications they access (Bertot, Langa, Grimes, Sigler, & Simmons, 2010) are needed to provide a more complete picture of the library internet user. Library patrons in many cases must also have the knowledge and requisite skills to use the public computing facilities. In certain instances, the patrons may feel that they are required to troubleshoot issues by themselves and face other barriers that inhibit them from accessing the facilities. While the demographic information of the patrons is important to study usage, one must also take into account the factors that restrict usage. Indeed, the American Library Association (ALA) has been tracking these barriers to use such as transportation and literacy for their patrons (ALA, 2008). Although barriers have been frequently discussed in studies on internet access in libraries, these barriers are often positioned as challenges faced by the librarians such as the lack of technical training or personnel (Bertot, 2009 and McClure et al., 2011). The current study revisits the framing of barriers from the perspective of the library patrons as per the 2008 ALA study. Both kinds of barriers are important in understanding the role that libraries play in providing internet access, and this study focused on the ones faced by the patrons to complement that rich findings that are already known about the challenges that librarians face. Barriers faced by the patrons that inhibit access might include concerns about privacy during use, network security as well as infrastructural limitations. Public computing facilities may have limited appointment times and insufficient workstations to meet the growing demands of the users. Understanding the barriers that impede access can help library administrations allocate the limited resources more effectively to balance the needs of patrons as well as fulfill objectives of the public computing facilities. Hence, the third research question for the study is: RQ3: What are the important barriers that restrict internet access and use in public libraries among the patrons of the libraries? 1.3. Psychological factors that promote library computer use While studying the demographics of the patrons as well as the barriers that inhibit use of the libraries' resources is a good starting point, one also needs to understand that there are other psychological mechanisms in play that affect the use of the internet. A better understanding of the patrons' reasons for using the public access computers can direct attention to alternative ways to extend access to vulnerable groups in society that can facilitate better targeted outreach. Only knowing that less well-to-do, less educated, and older Americans tend not to be users of the public access computers does not offer many actionable solutions to overcoming the digital divide (van Dijk, 2005). Overcoming the demographic disparities requires interventions that do more than increase the availability of public internet terminals, although that is a necessary first step. Prior research suggests that public outreach and education activities in addition to improved infrastructure access are needed to extent broadband adoption (LaRose, Strover, Gregg, & Straubhaar, 2011). By understanding the motivations people have for accessing public computers, library administrators and policymakers can better communicate the perceived value of public access computing and target outreach programs to specific user motivations. For instance, novice broadband adopters need gain confidence in their internet skills, what is more formally known as self-efficacy (see below) before they attempt to use the resources to their full efficiency (LaRose, Gregg, Strover, Straubhaar, & Carpenter, 2007). Confidence in one's digital competency may also encourage continued use as well and thus, understanding user motivations can shed light on the kinds of interventions that can also help bridge the digital divide. Hence the fourth research question is: RQ4: What are the key psychological factors that motivate patrons to use the broadband and the internet facilities in the libraries? Recognizing the need for theory-based research in explaining the abovementioned issues, and to provide practical solutions to library administrators, the current study examines internet use in public libraries through behavioral measures from the framework of the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB). The TPB is a widely accepted model for explaining volitional human behavior (Ajzen, 2002). TPB posits that intentions to perform a particular behavior, such as using public access computers, can be predicted from attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control. The behavioral intentions, together with perceptions of behavioral control, account for considerable variance in actual behavior. In the current study, the theory of planned behavior is used to study the motivations that drive people to access internet in the public libraries, and explore the future patterns of internet use through behavioral measures. Importantly, the TPB variables should explain additional variance in library usage over and above that contributed by demographic differences. Key predictors of behavioral intention include attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control (PBC). Attitude, which is defined as “the degree to which a person has a favorable or an unfavorable evaluation of a behavior in question” (Ajzen, 1991, p. 188), predicts a person's behavioral intentions. Subjective norms refer to the perceptions of what friends, family, work colleagues and friends in the neighborhood think of the particular behavior; in this case, the use of public computers in the library. Although subjective norms were often found to be weak predictors of behavior in traditional attitude studies (Conner & Armitage, 1998), library internet access may be an exception. In a study that examined the use of university library web-resources, subjective norms were found to be one of the most important factors that predicted the use of the resources (Kim, 2010). Perceived behavioral control (PBC) refers to “people's perception of the ease or difficulty of performing the behavior of interest” (Ajzen, 1991, p. 183). PBC reflects past experiences, anticipated impediments, and obstacles. For the current study, we looked at perceived behavioral control as a sum of perceived barriers that the patrons encounter in the libraries. PBC is typically understood in relationship to overcoming external barriers to implementing a behavior. On the other hand, self-efficacy is defined in terms of personal and internal barriers. Self-efficacy refers to “people's beliefs about their capabilities to exercise control over their own level of functioning and over events that affect their lives” (Bandura, 1991, p. 257). A previous meta-analysis compared the explanatory power between self-efficacy and perceived behavioral control, and found that self-efficacy accounted for more variance in behavioral intention than perceived behavioral control (Armitage & Conner, 2001). In addition, self-efficacy has been examined in studies of internet use (Eastin and LaRose, 2000 and LaRose, Gregg, Strover, Straubhaar and Carpenter, 2007) and was found to be positively correlated with internet use. Although there have been few studies that have examined internet use in a specific setting, such as libraries, it is plausible that there might be a significant relationship between self-efficacy and the intention to use the internet in public libraries. In a similar vein, habit strength has also been found to be a significant predictor of future media consumption behavior (LaRose, 2010). Here, in accordance with previous TPB research (Conner & Armitage, 1998), habit strength was assessed in terms of the frequency of past behavior. To recap, the current study aims to put together an expanded user profile of the library internet user in two ways. First, it analyzes the demographics and usage patterns of library patrons. Second, it analyzes the patrons' intentions to use the public computing facilities in terms of their motivations by applying the theory of planned behavior. Policy recommendations are then made in accordance to the expanded user profile.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Our study contributes to an understanding of the evolving role that public libraries play in local communities. Public access computers in libraries are frequently used by patrons who rely on them most to search for jobs and to access government services online. This underscores the continued relevance of libraries in the digital age. By providing public access computers, public libraries act as a conduit in strengthening the community by meeting the information needs of their residents such as connecting under-privileged residents to online applications, learning opportunities and potential employment. Our findings indicate that public computing facilities are indeed helping to meet the needs of marginalized citizens and the BTOP-funded improvements of these facilities are likely to help narrow the digital divides among demographic groups in this respect. An examination of psychological barriers to the usage of library computers addresses secondary digital divides related to effective use of public computers once basic access is provided. From the findings, creating opportunities to cultivate a habit of using the public access computers, improving attitudes and developing a stronger sense of self-efficacy will encourage library patrons to put the computers to better use in their lives. Notably, flexibility in scheduling depending on need rather than short, fixed time appointments that assure wide access but may frustrate mastery of important tasks should be considered.