A major surprise in a new report from the Pew Research Center is that even in an age of increasing digital resources, people under 30 are more likely than older Americans to use and appreciate libraries as places to study for class, go online, or just hang out.
The report on Younger Americans’ Library Habits and Expectations paints a textured portrait of younger Americans’ relationships with libraries’ physical and digital resources:
• Online: Almost all those in the 16-29 age group are online, and they are more likely than older patrons to use libraries’ computer and internet connections, access library websites, and use a library’s research databases.
• strong>On paper: 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.
• On-site: Younger adults are also more likely than their elders to use libraries as quiet study spaces. Moreover, they are just as likely as older adults to have visited libraries, borrowed printed books, and browsed the stacks of books.
The report finds that Americans under age 30 are strong supporters of traditional library services. Large majorities of them 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. And 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.
The findings are based on a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The surveys were administered one half on landline phones and half on cell phones and were conducted in English and Spanish. This 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 & Melinda Gates Foundation.