In its last library-related survey, researchers at the Pew Research Center found that Americans ages 16-29 are heavy technology users—no surprise there. The big surprise, however, is that despite their comfort with technology, most young Americans still read and borrow printed books, and value libraries and library services.
“Even in an age of increasing digital resources, those in this under-30 cohort are more likely than older Americans to use and appreciate libraries as physical space—places to study for class, go online, or just hang out,” notes a new Pew report on younger Americans library habits. Large majorities of younger patrons say it is “very important” for libraries to have librarians and books for borrowing, and relatively few think that libraries should automate most library services or move most services online.
Among the findings: almost all those in the 16-29 age group are online, and are more likely than older patrons to use libraries’ computer and internet connections. However, younger Americans are also more likely than older adults to have read a printed book in the past year: 75% of younger Americans have done so, compared with 64% of older adults.
This mix of interests is further reflected in younger users’ desires for new library services. Americans ages 16-29 are particularly interested in adding technology-driven features such as apps for accessing library materials and for navigating library spaces, and “Redbox”-style kiosks for convenient access to library materials around town. Still, younger Americans, like older adults, think that print books should have a central place at libraries; only 23% strongly support moving some stacks of books out of public areas to create room for things such as technology centers, meeting rooms, and cultural events.
“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 & American Life Project and a co-author of the new report about younger Americans’ relationships with libraries. “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.”
The findings come from data drawn a survey of 2,252 Americans ages 16 and above between October 15 and November 10, 2012 by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The report is part of a broader effort by the Pew Internet Project to explore the role libraries play in people’s lives and communities. The research is underwritten by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.