Tech-savvy American young adults are more likely than older adults to have read printed books in the past year, are more likely to appreciate reading in libraries, and are just as strong supporters of traditional library services as older adults, a new national report from the Pew Research Center shows. According to the survey of Americans ages 16–29, a majority of young adults believe it is “very important” for libraries to have librarians and books for borrowing, while relatively few think that libraries should automate most library services or move most services online.
The report, “Younger Americans’ Library Habits and Expectations,” also finds that younger Americans—despite being heavy technology users overall—still believe, as do older adults, that print books should have a central place at libraries, with few young adult responders (only 23 percent) strongly supporting moving books out of public areas to create room for things such as technology centers, meeting rooms, and cultural events.
The report finds that—while nearly all of those surveyed aged 16–29 are actively online in their lives and are more likely than older patrons to use libraries’ computer and internet connections, access library websites, and use a library’s research databases—75 percent of young adults have read a printed book in the past year, compared with 64 percent for older adults.
Younger adults are also more likely than older adults to use libraries as quiet study spaces, and are just as likely as older adults to have visited libraries, borrowed print books, and browsed the stacks.
When it comes to new library services, young adults are more interested than older adults in technology-driven features, such as apps, for accessing library materials and for navigating library spaces, and in “Redbox”-style kiosks around town for convenient access to library materials. However, the report also shows that Americans under age 30 are strong supporters of traditional library services.
“Younger Americans’ reading habits and library use are still anchored by the printed page,” says Kathryn Zickuhr, research analyst at Pew’s nonprofit Internet & American Life Project and a co-author of the report. “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.”
Other major findings of the report:
• 85 percent 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.
• 60 percent of younger patrons say they go to the library to sit and read, study, or watch or listen to media, while only 45 percent of library visitors age 30 and older do this.
• 67 percent of younger Americans say they would be interested in a digital media lab for creating and uploading digital content; 27 percent say they would be “very likely” to use such a resource.
• 44 percent of library visitors under age 30 have used a library’s computers, internet, or a public WI-FI network, compared with just 27 percent of those age 30 and older.
When queried about what library services and resources are “very important” to offer:
• 80 percent of young Americans name librarians to help people find information they need
• 76 percent name research resources such as free databases
• 75 percent name free access to computers and the Internet
• 75 percent name books for people to borrow
• 72 percent name quiet study spaces
• 72 percent name programs and classes for children and teens
• 71 percent name job or career resources