How Are We Using Libraries?

Two-thirds (65%) of Americans report using their public library either in person, by telephone or via computer in the past year. That’s over 151 million people using public libraries! The 2010 Harris Poll Quorum Household Survey, available on the ALA website, reveals some interesting data about library use.

Among those who have visited the library by computer in the past year, one third (35%) report increasing their public library access by computer over the past 6 months. While taking out books remains the top service library users report as a reason to visit the library in person, patrons who use the library by phone or computer report increased renewals as well as catalog and website visits.

Additionally, 62% of unemployed adults had used their library in the past year, including many who visited libraries to complete an online job application, search employment databases and create resumes.

So what does all this mean for you?

A major gap in the Harris Poll, of course, is data on teen library usage; the poll does include “children’s use,” but that use is reported by adults, not children or under-18 teens themselves. Still, both the Harris data and The State of America’s Libraries Report can tell us a lot about what our teens might be experiencing in these tough economic times.

The Brookings Institute estimates that one in seven American children–about 10.5 million–has an unemployed parent as a result of the current recession. While the teens in this estimate might not be using your library to research job options, as so many of their parents are, they’re likely experiencing increased stress at home. They may be having difficulty finishing schoolwork, or may even be considering dropping out to look for work themselves.

What are you doing to support the teens in your library? Have you seen more teens and adults using online job resources? How will you provide services for the expanding numbers of patrons who will access your library by phone or computer?

About mk Eagle

I'm the librarian at Holliston High School, a bit west of Boston. In my spare time I advise my school's yearbook and Gay Straight Alliance, write about food, and root for the Red Sox.
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One Comment

  1. Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries provides some interesting internet stats for teens (and all library users) http://tinyurl.com/ydnucpj. Here’s a block quote:

    Technology draws teens to the library. Young adults were among the most active, with nearly half of the nation‘s 14 to 18 year olds (an estimated 11.8 million users) reporting they used a library computer during the last year, and one quarter did so once a week or more. One of the most common uses of library computers reported among these teenagers was to do homework.

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