Study Shows Community Impact of Library Computer Resources

St. Cloud, MN, May 2014: An impact survey conducted throughout Great River Regional Library in April shows that library technology services are key public access points for information and opportunity.

The 32 locations of Great River Regional Library have a total of 201 computers available to the public. Each location also has wireless Internet service. The largest category of use reported in the survey was Social Inclusion (37%) which includes activities such as communicating with friends and family, pursuing a hobby or interest, finding reviews of movies, books or music, finding recipes, and learning new skills. Other high usage categories included:

  • 31% of public technology users indicated they had used public access technology for employment needs, searching for jobs and applying for jobs online
  • 28% of public technology users used public technology for educational activities
  • 27% of public technology users used library technology to get information on health and wellness topics

Many people (85%) reported having regular personal access to a computer and the Internet somewhere other than the library. They still use library computers while traveling, while out running errands, because a home computer is being used by another family member, or because of lack of access to high speed Internet at home.

“Whether they are checking in to see when their library books are due to be returned, or searching for business information on our databases, or checking their email for important messages, having access to computers at the library is something patrons rely on,” Pundsack said. “In many ways it equalizes opportunity, which is part of the great tradition of libraries.”

Public computer use also has an impact on staff. More than half of users (56%) reported having received one-on-one technology help from library staff or volunteers in the past 12 months.

Twenty-three percent of the library’s technology users are low income (below 200% of the poverty line). One of the biggest surprises in the survey is the picture it paints of the average library technology user: 74% of the 772 respondents were female; 69% were educated to either a 2-year, 4-year or postgraduate level; and 67% were in the middle-age years of 35 to 64.

“That’s interesting,” said Karen Pundsack, the library system’s associate director for patron services. “We expected to see fairly heavy use by the unemployed seeking work, by people pursuing educational opportunities, and by low income patrons who don’t have computers at home. The results remind us that many patrons are connecting from outside the library and that everybody has good reason to use library services.”

More information from the Impact Survey is available at the library website,

Great River Regional Library provides Central Minnesota residents with nearly 1 million books, CDs and DVDs, 250 public computers, programming and information services at 32 public libraries in Benton, Morrison, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd and Wright Counties.