Ever since I bought a smartphone, my digital camera, video camera, and Nook have been gathering dust on the shelf. I also find that I use my laptop a lot less on the weekends. It's just so handy to use my smartphone to do those things (take photos, shoot videos, read e-books, and check email). I also used to stop at libraries and coffee shops to use wireless when I was traveling. Now I just use my smartphone to keep up while away. Thinking about my own changed habits since acquiring a smartphone has me wondering, how are smartphones impacting public access computing in libraries?
According to a recent Pew survey:
- Nearly half (46%) of American adults are smartphone owners as of February 2012, an increase of 11 percentage points over the 35% of Americans who owned a smartphone last May.
- Two in five adults (41%) own a cell phone that is not a smartphone, meaning that smartphone owners are now more prevalent within the overall population than owners of more basic mobile phones.
- Nearly every major demographic group—men and women, younger and middle-aged adults, urban and rural residents, the wealthy and the less well-off—experienced a notable uptick in smartphone penetration over the last year.
- Overall adoption levels are at 60% or more within several cohorts, such as college graduates, 18-35 year olds and those with an annual household income of $75,000 or more.
- Although this overall increase in smartphone ownership is relatively widespread, several groups saw modest or non-existent growth in the last year. Chief among these are seniors, as just 13% of those ages 65 and older now own a smartphone.
I've seen a lot of analysis of how e-books will impact usage of print materials in libraries. Will smartphones impact public access computing in a similar way? Is that role for public libraries going to dramatically decrease as more and more people have smartphones? I've seen a lot of work and discussion about providing library resources for smartphones, but what I'm curious about is the impact on public access computing in libraries. Looking at the numbers from the Pew report, there are still a lot of people who don't have a smartphone and that will inevitably remain the case. The need for public access computers is certainly not going to disappear in the near future. I think libraries will continue to address the needs of people who do not have smartphones. The other opportunity, of course, is to address the technology needs people have that cannot be accomplished with a smartphone. What do you think? As you plan for the next few years, how is the increasing prevalence of smartphones impacting your decisions about public access computing?
Smith, Aaron. Nearly Half of American Adults are Smartphone Users. Pew Internet & American Life Project, March1, 2012,http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Smartphone-Update-2012.aspx?src=prc-headline, accessed on September 7, 2012.