I have just been told abut a great study on the use of public libraries, inluding for access to justice. The study, Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries includes data on use for access to law and government. It was conducted by The University of Washington Information School, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Specifically, the study polled public library users. They found high use for government and legal access (it is nice that legal access was a major part of the study). The chart below, (Figure 8 at page 55) shows not only that this is a significant category, but that it is particularly significant (46%) for those who rely on the library for their internet access — i.e. those with less resources. This emphasizes the wisdom of our library-oriented strategy.
The next chart breaks up the “Government and Legal Services” category (Figure 14 at 120).
Note how high “Learn about Laws or Regulations” is (top in this area). Also “Look for Advice With Legal Issue” is almost 40%. (It would be good to know how people read the word “advice”. Does this mean we need to build up pro bono referrals, or find ways to have what we call “information” meet more of the need?) Note too the phrase “Get Gov’t Froms” — we need to expand that to include “Complete Government Forms.” Inteestingly, within this general government and legal category, it does not seem to make much difference how much people rely only on libraries for Internet access.
These materials are available for use.
Full citation of the study: Becker, Samantha, Michael D. Crandall, Karen E. Fisher, Bo Kinney, Carol Landry, and Anita Rocha. (2010). Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries. (IMLS-2010-RES-01). Institute of Museum and Library Services. Washington, D.C.