Two Interesting Studies

Two Interesting Studies

Pew Research just released two studies dealing with reading and libraries. Both are quite enlightening. Following are some highlights and links to the studies if you want to read them.

Book Reading 2016

Highlights

  • Americans are reading at the same rate as they did in 2012.
  • People are more likely to read a print book over an electronic book.
  • 65% have read a print book in the last year, while only 28% have read an ebook.
  • 38% only read print books, while 6% only read digital books. 28% read both formats.
  • Young adults (ages 18-29) are more likely to read print books than seniors.
  • College graduates and women are more likely to read in general.

Libraries 2016

Highlights

  • Most Americans feel the library is an important part of the community.
  • 80% feel libraries should be teaching digital skills.
  • 57% feel libraries should offer more comfortable seating for reading, studying, etc.
  • 24% felt that books should be removed to make space for other uses, while 31% said books should remain.
  • 77% say the library has resources they need.
  • 69% see libraries a safe place.
  • 58% feel the library opens up educational opportunities for all ages.
  • 53% of American have interacted with their library in the past year, with 48% visiting the physical library (or a satellite location)
  • Young adults (ages 18-29) are more likely to visit the library than seniors.
  • Borrowing books is by far the most popular service offered by libraries (64% of library users have checked out a book in the past year).
  • 55% see the library as a place to get service during a crisis.

What stands out in these two studies is that books are still an integral part of our lives, despite competition from the Internet, streaming services, and gaming.  I suspect that the widespread use of mobile technology probably increases the potential for someone to read versus doing some of these other activities.  Although it looks like people are still more inclined to read print books, having access to ebooks on a tablet or smartphone definitely does not hinder reading.  Rather, mobile technology makes books more accessible and convenient.

Likewise, it’s fascinating that a large portion of people think libraries need to create more space for reading, studying, etc., but don’t think books should be removed to make the space.  This response indicates that our users still value our physical collections, which is further demonstrated in the fact that borrowing books is still the most used service.  So we shouldn’t be quick to remove print in favor of ebooks.  A balanced approach to collection management is needed.

Finally, it is encouraging that most Americans find libraries to be an important part of their communities and utilize our services.  I often am disheartened when someone says, “why do we still need libraries with the Internet,” but these results demonstrate that most people understand our mission and appreciate our services.  Nevertheless, with such positive responses to libraries, reading, and etc., there is a challenge that we do not become apathetic in our profession.  We need to continue adapting to the needs of our users.  We need to listen to our users and constantly evaluate our services and ensure that we are meeting their needs.  Additionally, we need to be aggressive about sharing what we do to our communities, so they understand our mission and goals.  We also need to demonstrate our value, so people can see that their positive opinion of us is not unfounded.

These are just a few of the insights I got from reading these Pew studies.  There are many more, so take some time to browse through them.  Understanding how people use the library and behave in regard to books and information can only empower us to better serve them.

-Chauncey Montgomery,
Community Library, Sunbury, OH

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