Local Public Libraries Serve Important Functions as Meeting Places, but Demographic Variables Appear Significant, Suggesting a Need for Extensive Further Research. A Review of: Aab , S., Audunson, R., & V rheim, A. (2010). How do public libraries function as meeting places? Library & Information Science Research, 32(1), 16-26. doi: 10.1016/j.lisr.2009.07.008.
Objective – The investigators hoped to gain an understanding of the extent to which local public libraries are used by their visitors as meeting places, and in what ways. Furthermore, they sought to determine whether certain demographic variables correlate with variations in these ways of using the library. Finally, they were looking for evidence of a relationship between the degree of the subjects’ general community involvement on the one hand, and their participation in various types of meetings in the library on the other. Design – Questionnaire-based telephone survey. Setting – Oslo, Norway. Subjects – 750 adult residents (eighteen years or older) from 3 of Oslo’s 15 boroughs. Methods – The researchers selected these boroughs (not identified in this article and referred to, unusually, as “townships”) because they judged them to represent three demographically varying types of urban community. In March of 2006, a professional survey organization drew numbers at random from a database of telephone numbers in each borough, continuing until it had reached the desired number of 250 actual survey respondents, including cell phone users, for each borough. It weighted the sample according to gender and age, and administered the telephone interviews on the basis of a questionnaire which the researchers had designed to yield quantitative data for ten independent, and seven dependent, variables. Interviewers asked the respondents to answer questions on the basis of their entire recollected personal history of public library use, rather than during a specific defined period.Six of the independent variables were demographic: borough of residence, occupational category, age category, educational level, cultural/linguistic background (dichotomous: either non-Norwegian or Norwegian), and household income category. The other four were: level of participation in local activities, degree of involvement in community improvement activities, degree to which a subject trusted various community institutions, and frequency of local library use. “Meeting intensity,” or the number of different meeting types for which a given subject could remember ever having used the library, was one dependent variable. The others were participation/non-participation in each of the six defined meeting types. The researchers employed hierarchical multiple regression analyses for determining degrees of correlation. Main Results – “Meeting intensity” correlated significantly and positively not only with frequency of library use in general, but also with the number of local activities participate