Released: June 25, 2013

Press release: ‘Digital natives’ are still bound to printed media

 

Americans ages 16-29 are heavy technology users, including using computers and internet at libraries. At the same time, the most still read and borrow printed books, and value a mix of traditional and technological library services.

 

WASHINGTON (June 25, 2013) — Belying the stereotype that younger Americans completely eschew print for digital, those ages 16-29 have wide-ranging media and technology behaviors that straddle the traditional paper-based world of books and digital access to information.

One major surprise in a new report from the Pew Research Center is that even in an age of increasing digital resources, those in this under-30 cohort are more likely than older Americans to use and appreciate libraries as physical spaces – places to study for class, go online, or just hang out.

The report paints a textured portrait of younger Americans’ sometimes surprising relationships with libraries’ physical and digital resources:

This mix of interests is further reflected in younger users’ desires for new library services. Americans ages 16-29 are particularly interested in adding technology-driven features such as apps for accessing library materials and for navigating library spaces, and “Redbox”-style kiosks around town for convenient access to library materials around town.

Still, Americans under age 30 are strong supporters of traditional library services. Large majorities of them say it is “very important” for libraries to have librarians and books for borrowing, and relatively few think that libraries should automate most library services or move most services online. And younger Americans, like older adults, think that print books should have a central place at libraries; only 23% strongly support moving some stacks of books out of public areas to create room for things such as technology centers, meeting rooms, and cultural events.

“Younger Americans’ reading habits and library use are still anchored by the printed page,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, research analyst at the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and a co-author of the new report about younger Americans’ relationships with libraries. “Some of this stems from the demands of school or work, yet some likely lies in their current personal preferences. And this group’s priorities and expectations for libraries likewise reflect a mix of traditional and technological services.”

These insights emerge in a new analysis of a survey of Americans ages 16 and older when they are asked about their library use and their hopes for the library of the future, which includes a new analysis of three specific age groups: 16-17 year-olds, 18-24 year-olds, and 25-29 year-olds. The findings are based on a survey of 2,252 Americans ages 16 and above between October 15 and November 10, 2012 by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The surveys were administered on half on landline phones and half on cell phones and were conducted in English and Spanish. The margin of error for the full survey is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

A snapshot of younger Americans’ library habits and expectations

Other major findings from the report include:

Younger Americans’ priorities for libraries reflect this mix of habits, including various types of brick-and-mortar services as well as digital technologies. Asked about what it is “very important” libraries should offer, for instance, librarians were at the top of the list:

About this research

This report is part of a broader effort by the Pew Internet Project to explore the role libraries play in people’s lives and communities. The research is underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project is an initiative of the Pew Research Center, a non-profit “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world. The Pew Internet Project explores the impact of the internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care and civic/political life. The Project is nonpartisan and takes no position on policy issues. Support for the Project is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. More information is available at pewinternet.org.



[1] One example of this type of space that has a particular focus on younger patrons is the YOUmedia teen learning spaces (youmedia.org), which are funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.