Effects of Age and Income Level on Online Reading:
A Survey of Library Users in Poorer Communities



While abundant LIS research has been conducted to create digital resources for easier access, fewer studies investigated the changing online reading attitudes from library users in poorer communities. This study surveyed how age and income level influence reading over the Internet in urban settings. Particularly, how such users’ perception of easiness of online reading is affected by different ages? How such users’ perception of easiness of online reading is affected by different income level?


Two hundred and thirty-eight library users participated in this survey, which was conducted at four branches of a public library and the main branch of a second public library in a metropolis area in the Midwest. The limitation of this study is the convenience sampling instead of random sampling. The date and location of library visits were chosen with the help of library administrators to best represent multiple ethnic groups in this region. Among the four branches, one branch has mostly Hispanic and Middle Eastern users; three other branches host African American communities. The main branch of the second public library has more European Americans. Questionnaires were validated in previous studies and distributed directly to library patrons in library buildings. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and Analysis of Variance.


Statistically significant differences were found on reading over the Internet by readers from different age groups and income levels. Younger readers believe reading online was as easy as reading print books, while older library users preferred print media. Lower-income users were able to access the Internet mainly from public libraries and reported slightly positively attitude toward online reading. This study suggests that print books are still major reading media among poor-communities (Chatman, 1985). The opportunity to read over the Internet at public libraries is highly appreciated by users due to limited Internet access at home, which confirms the importance of such public infrastructure (Bertot, McClure, & Ryan, 2002). TV, the Internet, and video games do not seem to impact the amount of books read by adult public library users in the current sample. This paper suggests various readers’ advisory strategies and recommends different educational and reading programs to promote literacy and other information services to the urban poor.



Chatman, E. A. (1985). Information, mass media use and the working poor. Library & Information Science Research, 7(2), 97-113.

Bertot, J. C., McClure, J. R., & Ryan, J. (2002). Impact of external technology funding programs for public libraries: A study of LSTS, E-Rate, Gates, and others. Public Libraries, 41(3), 166-171.