millennials&PLs

Image credit: Pew Internet Project

The Pew Research Internet & American Life Project continues its deep dive into public libraries, and recently released a comprehensive study of young Americans younger than 30 (i.e., Millennials) that examines their attitudes toward and engagement with public libraries. Fittingly for Millennials, the findings were pretty complex. Pew indicated that there are significant differences in the use and perception of public libraries among those aged 16-29, so much so that they distinguished three separate “generations” among this group.

Among the 6,224 Americans aged 16 + that Pew surveyed, one commonality among Millennials they did find was that reading is still a very important activity among the younger generation, and they remain active users of their local public libraries. In fact, Millennials are more likely to have read a book in the past year than their older counterparts (88% compared to 79%), and more likely than those older than 30 to agree that there is useful, important information not available on the internet (62% compared to 53%).

These findings all seem promising, but there are a couple of clear ways that Millennials diverge significantly from the older population. Although library use appears to be steady for the younger generation, the nature of that engagement might be shifting. While the percentage of 16-29-year-olds who visited a public library in person dropped from 2012 to 2013 (from 58% to 50%), the percentage of that same population who visited a library’s website increased by almost the same amount (from 28% to 36%). Also, while the youngest group of Millennials (ages 16-17) were the most likely to use the library on a regular basis, they were also the most likely to say that libraries were not very important to themselves, their family, or their community.

So even as libraries remain important centers for information and learning among the young, how that information is accessed and perceived seems to be in a state of transition.

You can find the full Pew Report here.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The Weekly Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.