What Young People Really Want From Libraries

What do young Americans want from their public libraries? Not just video games, ebooks and digital tools. A recent report, titled Younger Americans’ Library Habits and Expectations notes that while digital materials and interactive learning experiences are listed among the programs young people think libraries should implement, they’re not the highest priority. In fact, the programs that top the list are of the community-strengthening, shared space variety.

A Pew Research survey of over 2,000 Americans, aged 16-29, found that young people most want libraries to coordinate with local schools, provide free literacy programs, and have more comfortable spaces for hanging out. In fact, 87% of respondents said that working with schools and providing literacy services are something that libraries “should definitely do.” A whopping 80% said that having librarians onhand is very important and 64% said that libraries should prioritize having more comfortable spaces. In contrast, only 54% said that libraries should offer a broader selection of ebooks and 44% said that libraries should move most library services online.

Other things ranked “very important” by respondents include: research resources such as free databases (76%), free access to computers and the internet (75%), books for borrowing (75%), quiet study spaces (72%), programs and classes for children and teens (73%) and job or career resources (71%).

Digital natives for whom tech and connectivity is a way of life (98% of those surveyed use the internet), respondents also expressed interest in tech services including GPS apps to locate materials, programs to try new tech devices and apps, digital labs, personalized accounts with book recommendations and pre-loaded e-readers.

So, 16-29 year olds want libraries to prioritize people, community well-being and shared resources, and utilize tech to make things more efficient, social and accessible? Sounds like a solid plan.

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