Library books, library databases, library spaces -- individuals aged 16-29 are more likely than their elders to use all three, according to the latest Pew Internet and American Life report on young Americans' relationships with libraries, released today. And, hearteningly, more than eighty percent of this age group believe it is very important to have professional librarians help individuals find the information they need.

The study provides lots of data to confirm that young people "born with the chip" perceive libraries as important parts of their community and their information ecology, including' the persistence of physical books and resistance to shifting resources online.

“Younger Americans' reading habits and library use are still anchored by the printed page,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, research analyst at the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project and, with Kristen Purcell and Lee Raine, report co-author. “Some of this stems from the demands of school or work, yet some likely lies in their current personal preferences. And this group's priorities and expectations for libraries likewise reflect a mix of traditional and technological services.”

Major findings from the report include:

  • Younger patrons are significantly more likely than older Americas to use libraries as places to sit and read, study, or watch or listen to media; 60% of younger patrons say they go to the library do this, compared with 45% of library visitors over 30 .
  • 67% of younger Americans ages 16-29 say they would be interested in a digital media lab where patrons could create and upload new digital content; some 27% say they would be “very likely” to use such a resource.
  • 44% of library visitors under age 30 have used a library's computer hardware, internet, or a public WI-FI network, compared with just 27% of those ages 30 and older.
  • 85% of 16-17 year-olds read at least one print book in the past year, making them significantly more likely to have read a book in this format than any other age group. (see graph)

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The report offers more granular data on ebook' reading, hardware ownership, and home broadband adoption and provides much food for thought for those serving teens and ' new adults, as well as budget justifications for those looking to bolster collections and programming for this patron group.

These findings are based on a survey of 2,252 Americans ages 16 and above, conducted between October 15 and November 10, 2012 by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. The surveys were administered both on landline phones and on cell phones and were conducted in both English and Spanish.

About Wendy Stephens

Librarian at Cullman High School, Cullman, Alabama

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