The singular most important finding in the latest Pew study, Library Services in the Digital Age, is that libraries—in the opinion of most Americans—aren’t just about books. 80% of U.S. residents say that lending books is a “very important” service, but they rate the help they get from reference librarians as equally important. And nearly the same number, 77%, reported that free access to technology and the Internet is also very important. This triumvirate—books, help, and technology—runs through the entire report.

Could the library brand—historically bound to book borrowing—be undergoing a transformation? In the last major study of users, OCLC’s Perception of Libraries, 2010, patrons were asked to associate the first thing that came to mind when they thought of libraries. And for 75% of the respondents, the answer was books. While Pew didn’t play the same association game, it seems that Pew’s users have a more nuanced take on the library’s role.

Full report at PW