The library demographic: People aged 16 to 30. This a very positive study for the role of libraries and books in our culture and may also provide clear directions for where to take library services. The most surprising findings is that young people read, they read print books, and are more likely than older people to borrow a book. In fact, 60% of those between 16 and 30 have gone to the library in the past year. The encouraging number is that a majority of Americans feel the library is important, rising to over 70% for age 25 to 49. This is all awesome news, but the question remains how libraries translate these findings into securing services for users and helping users become life time readers and patrons.
One of the more interesting details was the disparity between young and older persons borrowing habits. Young people were more often to borrow, while older users considered buying a sometimes more viable option. For young people, it might be obvious that they don’t have the spending money to buy all the books they want to read, so borrowing is the best option. For older users, though, there was some revealing information on how they make their choice:
“It mainly depends on availability at the library and how badly I want to read the book ‘right now,’” and online panelist told us. “If the queue for the library e-book is too long, I’ll just buy it. If it’s a reference book that I’m only using temporarily, I’ll borrow it, but if it’s something that I foresee needing in the future, I’ll buy.”
See that? If the queue is too long for the eBook, they buy it. With all the eBook hubbub between publishers and libraries this is interesting. It means libraries need to fight more to secure a larger collection of eBooks. The findings do show that only about 12-18% of readers read eBooks in the past year, so it is not an immediate problem. However, libraries should want to be seen as a resource for users long after they have a job and can afford to buy what they want. Helping to build habits and reasonable expectations in young users may be one way of doing this; by associating reading their favorite books with the library users may come to see the library as the first place to go. But this will only happen if young users see the library as more than just a place they do school work and can get free copies of the latest young adult novel. They have to view the library as a positive force in their lives. What this studies illuminates is that libraries have a strong place in the lives of young people. There is an opportunity for libraries to target this group in the hopes of encouraging life long reading and learning and viewing the library as the place where this happens. The question is: how?