September 28, 2021

To Attract Parents and Kids, Libraries Should Think Mobile

Public libraries hoping to attract more children and teens, as well as their parents, would do well to focus on mobile technology. This is one of the findings of the latest Patron Profiles, Library Journal’s national trending survey of public library patrons.

Library patrons between the ages of 21 and 40—those most likely to have young children— turn to mobile technology when looking for content, conducting research, and when trying to locate material for their kids. Nearly 15 percent of this group report they are using mobile services to help their children with research or to find a book, as compared to less than 10 percent of the 2,155 total respondents in “Patron Profiles: Mobile Devices, Mobile Content and Library Apps,” a 45-page report released in January.

“People in this group are avid users of a wide range of library services, and they are early adopters of technology,” says Patron Profiles series editor Rebecca Miller, also editor in chief of School Library Journal. “Getting to know them provides insights into future demands. Responding to their needs, with an eye on the next generation, will help foster a deeper connection to what libraries deliver.”

Take checking out books, movies, and games. A far higher number of patrons in the 21-40 age group buy games and movies than borrow these items from their library. But they are almost on par with all respondents when it comes to books, with slightly more than 50 percent purchasing titles, compared to more than 55 percent borrowing books from the library.

Patron Profiles is also trending ebook users. It found that library users who prefer ebooks to printed books are, on average, more “active library patrons,” and a user group worth watching. “They are generally more voracious in their media consumption,” according to Patron Profiles. “They visit their libraries more often, read more books, and buy more books in both print and electronic formats.”

How they get access to titles, however, is key, as this age group is more likely to use mobile technology than other patrons. Of the 27 percent of smartphone and tablet owners who download apps, very few, less than five percent, have downloaded library apps. Why? Their local libraries simply may not have an app, which in turn underscores “the absence (at least at present) of a widespread app development platform for libraries,” reads the report.

With the ever-increasing reliance on mobile services among the 21–40 age group, not to mention the high technology use among their kids libraries will want to explore digital tools such as apps as they strive to serve existing patrons and engage the next generation.

Patron Profiles is powered by BowkerPubTrack Consumer and sponsored by Proquest, Baker & Taylor, Random House and The Rowman & Littlefield Group. The next issue, “Library Websites and Virtual Services,” will appear in April 2012.



Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at


  1. If your library is looking to get information on mobile apps, I would be happy to provide you with some information. You can email or call me at:

    Here is a little information on who we are:

    Hybrid Forge develops software tailored for library Websites & Mobile Apps. Our engineers have extensive knowledge and experience developing client websites throughout North America. Our feature products are:

    Owl iLibrary – your library on the go
    Elephant eContent – your content management (CMS) solution

    “Since deploying the TRAC iPhone app, our library has seen a noticeable increase in holds placed by our younger members. The app has definitely enabled us to engage this demographic more efectively.”
    —Tamara Van Biert
    Stony Plain Public Library