I’ve been looking over the raw numbers from the Harris Interactive poll that that asked 8 to 18 year olds about use of libraries virtual and face-2-face. When I heard about the survey I was curious about what the data said regarding use of libraries by teens. Looking at the raw data there’s quite a bit to take in, but here are some of the things I noticed:
- In general teens are aware of both the school library and the public library in the community. Boys 16-18 years old were slightly less likely to know about the library. This might point to the need for librarians to spend a bit more time thinking about how to serve this age and gender group with materials and services virtual and face-2-face.
- Teen girls are definitely more active users of the library than boys. A number of the 13 to 18 year old girls surveyed stated that they visited the library more than 21 times per month. This is compared to a smaller number of the boys, in that age group, who noted they visited the library as frequently each month. Again, this suggests that boys are an audience which librarians want to/need to target more completely. That said girls and boys both showed they visit the library (virtual or physical) on a semi-regular basis each month.
- Borrowing books is by far the number one reason teens visit the public and school library. While they do visit the library for other reasons – including to hang-out, read, use computers, etc. borrowing materials is their main purpose for being there – by quite a bit in most cases. (This is to borrow books for both pleasure reading and homework.) Visiting the library to hang out and to attend events ranked relatively low on the scale for teens who completed the survey. What does this mean about the programs and services we provide? Do we need to rethink the services to meet the needs of those teens who run in and out simply to check out materials? Do we need to think more about virtual services? Are we only hitting a small number of teens in the community with the services we offer beyond circulation services? What does this data tell us about our physical vs. virtual spaces? Anything?
- While some teens (8%) reported in the survey that they use a 56k modem to access the Internet, larger numbers noted that they use DSL or cable modem connections to connect. This is worth noting as it demonstrates quite a few teens have access, somewhere, to hi-speed connections. Does this information change anything in terms of the way we provide services and what we provide?
- Teens 16 to 18 years old use the Internet more than their younger peers. Boys and girls can both be categorized as medium users (as defined by the survey as between 8 and 21 hours a week.)
Reading through the data and thinking about the numbers it is clear that teens know about their libraries – school or public – and know that they can use the library for materials to support their recreational and informational needs. It might be worth thinking a bit about the data that looks at how teens do and do not use the library beyond the going in and out to get materials.
Do we want teens to do more with the library? If so, what’s the best way to accomplish that? On-site programs? Programs outside of our buildings? Virtual services? Of course many have been asking these questions already. Now however there is data to support the need to not just ask but to do.
It’s about that time of the year to begin thinking about Teen Tech Week 2008. I hope you will join me in surveying teen patrons about the types of tech programs they want to participate in. Teen Tech Week Taskforce has been busier than ever compiling resources, guides, and articles to support you with this planning process.
One of the first jobs the taskforce accomplished was gathering teen input to establish the 2008 theme, Tune in @ Your Library. Music is a vital part of teens’ lives, so it’s no wonder that this theme was most popular with our sample teen audiences. The theme encourages young adults to take advantage of the library’s music and media resources, such as music CDs, DVDs, audiobooks and Internet access to online media.
Additional plans in progress for Teen Tech Week 2008 include:
•A new Teen Tech Week web site with even more resources
•Monthly guides that demystify social networking tools used to connect with teens.
•A Teen Tech Week contest that encourages youth participation
•Celebration ideas, from quick-and-easy programs to more involved workshops.
•A technology survey for teens, to be administered during TTW 2008.
•An online vote for the 2009 theme, to take place during TTW 2008.
As you plan your event, I hope you will peruse the TTW wiki and add ideas that strengthen the resources offered.
Teen Tech Week registration begins on September 1st and the second annual celebration takes place March 2-8, 2008.
I’m returning from the Games Learning and Libraries Symposium sponsered by ALA techsource, and organized by the amazing Jenny Levine.
Many of the presentations focused on having gaming programs, and integrating gaming into current services. In many of the sessions I attended presenters would mention that they advocate teen services to their staff as well as community in an effort to help the entire library staff be on board with the innovation that teens need. I’ve seen so many libraries have great success with everyone on board, but what I’ve really seen lacking is projects to make our catalogs effective for the needs of teens. Currently at my library acquisitions is discussing where to store Anime. Right now its in three different sections: Family, Special Interest, and Sci/Fi. They don’t have a common subject heading so it can be difficult to get a feel for what Anime we have at our library.
I’ve noticed as well that gaming is also a topic that has cataloging issues. Since games don’t have ISBNs it makes it difficult to fit into the current MARC record, and we have fixed that problem by making them up. That isn’t the most effective way to handle this, and I wonder what would happen if we had gamers create our catalog/organizer our library?
Perry Branch Library in Gilbert, AZ change the library’s collection to be similar to a Barnes and Noble store. Other libraries have change the catalog to allow tagging, and more Web 2.0 interfaces, but still what if we started attracting a different audience to the job of cataloger.
News and More from the YALSA Office
Useful News from YA Library Use Studies: Two recent surveys—PLA’s Public Library Data Service Statistical Report and a Harris Interactive poll of youth ages 8 to 18, conducted for ALA—offered some good news for youth library services, with useful statistics you can use to advocate for more support at your library. A few highlights:
- According to PLDS, almost 90 percent of public libraries offer services specifically for young adults, with more than half employing at least one FTE working on youth services. In 1995, only 11 percent of libraries had at least one FTE dedicated to youth services
- A majority of youth ages 8-18 use both their public libraries (78 percent) and school library media centers (60 percent) to borrow materials for personal use, according to the Harris poll
- About one-third of the Harris poll respondents said they’d use both their public and school libraries more if they had more interesting materials to borrow, offered more programs and events, and stayed open longer hours.
Check out the other highlights in this news release; a future blog post will focus specifically on the data relating to teens.
Another Way to Advocate? Run for ALA Council: We need to keep the momentum going, and make it clear that youth services remains important, something to be actively addressed by all of ALA and the library community. One way to do that is to run for ALA Council or President. The ALA Nominating Committee is currently seeking nominations (self-nominating is okay) for Councilors-at-Large and President-Elect, with submissions due by September 1. Nominations can also be sent to any member of the nominating committee. To learn more, visit the ALA Elections page and download the Call for Nominees (Word doc).
YALSA Discussion Lists: They’re Coming Back: The ALA electronic discussion list server encountered a problem this weekend, causing a backlog. The lists are back online and the backlog should be cleared by the end of the day.
When Harry Met YALSA: Harry Potter kept us busy last week! Find out what YALSA President Paula Brehm-Heeger had to say about the boy wizard’s effect on teens and reading on YALSA’s Wiki.
Deadlines and Reminders: Don’t forget to fill out a Committee Volunteer Form; selection committees will be determined this fall; WrestleMania Reading Challenge registration ends July 31&mdashyou’ve got a week to sign up; and we want to hear from you about Annual—share your thoughts with us in our post-conference survey by August 31.
That’s this week’s news wrap up. I will be on vacation next week, so look for the next YALSA Update in August.
Every Tuesday, check back to the YALSA Blog for a rundown of news and updates from the YALSA Office. Send your questions and comments to Stevie Kuenn, YALSA Communications Specialist, at email@example.com
In the spring on This American Life, host Ira Glass presented a 5 minute essay on The O.C. Glass talked about how over four years he developed a relationship with the characters on the TV show. He talked about how watching the program was a weekly event for he and his wife. He talked about how he cried during the show finale episode. The message was that while “just” a TV show, the people in this show meant something to he and his wife.
Ever since this essay from Glass I’ve been thinking about how teens build relationships with characters from fiction and real people. Teen readers of Gossip Girl (a bit of an east coast version of The O.C) have a relationship with Serena, Blair, and the others. Teens who watch American Idol have a relationship with the contestants on the show. Teens who listen to Fall Out Boy have a relationship with the musicians in that group. Teens who visit the library (either face-to-face or virtually) on a regular basis have a relationship with library staff.
These relationships aren’t something that happens quickly. Viewers of The O.C. had to find something to connect with in the first episode and then have a reason to return week after week for four years. There was something compelling to fans of the show that made them want to know what happened to Ryan, Taylor, Summer, Seth, Marissa, etc.
Library relationships don’t happen quickly either. Teens and library staff have to build a relationship over time. A teen’s first entry into the library world has to be one that provides a connection and a reason to return. I was reminded of this when someone I know told me about a recent experience she had in a branch of a public library. This is a woman in her early 20s. She went in to do some homework for graduate school and asked the librarian at the desk for some help. The librarian was gruff and unhelpful and overall just plain rude. The woman didn’t let this deter her in terms of getting her work done. She took books off of the shelf and worked at a table. While working she heard two of the librarians talking about her, not in kind or friendly terms.
Imagine if this were a teenager and not a woman in her early 20s. What would the message be to that teen? Would a teen be able to build a relationship with those librarians? Would those librarians demonstrate support as outlined in the 40 Developmental Assets?
I realize this young woman’s experience is not indicative of every library in the country. But hearing this story reminds me how much work we still have to do in order to guarantee that libraries around the country support teens in their need to build relationships with people real and imagined. (In books, movies, TV, and in real-life.)