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Monday, December 3, 2012

Good News From the Pew: Reading and Library Habits Are On the Rise

There is good news out there in the reading world. Could anyone have guessed that young adults are reading and using their libraries? It really shouldn't be a surprise to those working in libraries and bookstores. With the slew of writers in the Young Adult genres that keep producing compelling stories that has readers begging for more this certainly not a surprise. Every generation no matter if the times are good or bad, everyone loves a good story. When the Pew Research recently presented their findings on the habits of young readers there were a couple of surprises. (Younger Americans Reading and Library Habits, October 23 3012) One surprise that instantly leaps out of the report is the format usage for younger readers. It is interesting to note that young adult (16-29) who read books in the past 12 months, read a print version more often than an e-book or audio book. This seems to be odd coming from the generation that basically grew up with the Internet, gaming systems and cell phones. Why would the numbers be so lopsided? There could be many reasons which can start with economics situation at home to a child's school policy which prohibits all types of electronic gadgets in schools, including cellphones and e-readers. This is not to say that this age group is not adapting to technology, it simply just may be that print is still an acceptable format for books. As the e-readers grow in popularity and usage it should be interesting to revisit how reading habits will change yet again. High school students are more likely to use the library more frequently than any other age group. This can be attributed to the need for completing homework assignments. High schoolers are also open to receiving book suggestions from a librarian. In the same survey, over 50% of high schoolers said that they did not think that libraries were that important in their lives. Looking at the overall picture of the survey this isn't necessarily a bad view. It simply means that the young adults today will more than likely support the library as adults. To take it a step further, the stretch can be made that they will be the patrons that will embrace technology changes within the library. Libraries will always have to compete for every tax dollar from the citizens. If they are not up-to-date with technology or simply serving a small population seeking to stay with a "print" majority, the library will lack relevance not only directly to the community they serve but in their counties and states. It's not a bad idea to begin a program called No Library Left Behind to help smaller libraries keep up with the technological trends. Thus keeping them relevant in the eyes of their community. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the survey is that high schoolers did not know that e-book borrowing was available at the library. Could it be that they are walking into a library and are following the adage what you see is what you get? Changing this perception may take time since most teens hate asking "What services do you offer?" for fear that they may look silly asking the question. As the library begins to shift towards to digital reading, the progress will be gradual. Keeping this in mind it will have to be every librarians' duty to promote e-contents and help patrons discover and use them effectively. This comes from the top down. This includes the Library Directors who should promote the technology to local officials and agencies to the circulation clerk when assisting patrons to check out books asking the question "Do you know you can borrow e-books at this library?" The whole survey is good news for libraries. It is a good indication that the support for libraries is strong across all age levels. That should make the "Year" if not the "decade" for every librarian. This study definitely points to the need for libraries now and twenty years from now. Once again proof that libraries are not dead yet. In fact, it should be said out loud, libraries are not even on life support. Given the right leadership and willing tho grow with the challenges of new technology there should be no reason for any library to have to close its doors ever.
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