It turns out that the Pew Internet and American Life Project sort of keeps a blog. Here are some points from a November 2004 post by project director Lee Rainie regarding “surprising, strange, and wonderful data:”
- The vast majority of most Internet users (80%) and many non-users (about 40%) expect that they will be able to find reliable information online when it comes to news, health care information, e-commerce, and government. They also report they would turn first to the internet when they have questions about health, news, government resources, and products. (Source: Survey September 2002) [emphasis added]
- A third of online adults and a fifth of online teens say they use the internet to get information that is sensitive or embarrassing to discuss with another person.
- As they gain more experience online, Americans become more serious in their internet use. Over time, they use the internet more for work, they spend more money on e-commerce, banking, and auctions, they pursue more activities, and they are more likely to use emails to for serious purposes such as expressing worries or seeking advice. (Source: Survey March 2001)
- Between 30%-40% of internet users begin their hunt for health information, government services and political information using a search engine. (Source: Multiple surveys 2002-2003)
The above findings seem to scare many librarians, but I claim they suggest a bright future for libraries. Think about it, these folks probably would never have thought to use a library for these questions anyway, but search engines and the internet give us a way to reach them even when they aren’t specifically thinking of using our services.
The real risk, and the reason we have to move quickly to recognize these trends and serve these users is in this point:
- Three-quarters of those who get health information online do not regularly check the source, sponsorship or timeliness of the material they find online. (Source: Survey June-August 2001).