November 19, 2014

This Just In: Young Adults Love Libraries

A brand-spanking-new Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life study (just released this morning) has found some surprising information about young people and their opinions of libraries and print books. Here’s the lead:

Belying the stereotype that younger Americans completely eschew print for digital, those ages 16-29 have wide-ranging media and technology behaviors that straddle the traditional paper-based world of books and digital access to information.

One major surprise in a new report from the Pew Research Center is that 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 spaces – places to study for class, go online, or just hang out. [emphasis added]

But that’s just for starters. There are more suprises. For example, check this out: “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.” And this: “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.” [emphasis added] There is more, read the press release or the full report.

As the parent of 20-year-old twin daughters who grew up reading everything they could lay their hands on, I know this is true at least in our case. I continue to learn from them.

But I also know that I was like them at their age. I read insatiably, and had e-books been an option when I was their age I would have read e-books and p-books with equal desire and aplomb. I do now, but just not in the volume that they do.

So I suppose I’m in the awkward position of not being surprised, as my own children have exhibited the traits reported by the Pew Research Center, but also being totally surprised that my girls were perhaps less unique than I had thought. There are apparently many of their peers like them out there, who appreciate libraries, who appreciate books in whatever form they come, and all of that makes me very, very happy.

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Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.

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