2013 Libraries in the Digital Age
June 11, 2013
We just released a new report yesterday showing that a third (34%) of all American adults ages 18 and older now own a tablet computer. This includes almost half (49%) of adults ages 35-44 and 50% of parents with minor children living at home.
We have received some questions about how parents are using devices such as tablets and smartphones with their children—a fascinating topic, as parents seem to have a complex relationship with technology and its role in parenting. We know, for instance, that even though parents are more likely to read e-books than adults without minor children at home, the vast majority (81%) of parents say that it is important to them that their children are exposed to print books.
A new report (PDF) by researchers at Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development further explores parents’ views of their children’s media use—specifically parents of children from birth to eight years old. (Here’s a Chicago Tribune summary of the report for time-pressed readers.) Some highlights:
- “Parents use media and technology as a tool for managing daily life, but books, toys, and other activities are used more often. Parents say they are more likely to use books, toys, and other activities when they need to keep children occupied than they are to use TV; and they are much more likely to use TV than to use mobile media devices.” (p. 4)
- “Parents do not report having many family conflicts or concerns about their children’s media use. Nearly eight in ten parents (78%) disagree with the statement ‘negotiating media use causes conflicts in our home,’ compared to 20% who agree with it.” (p. 5)
- “Many parents report using media technology with their children, but this “joint media engagement” drops off markedly for children who are six or older.” The report adds that about one in five (20%) of parents say that when their children are using a tablet computer, the parent is using the device along with the child “all or most” of the time. (p. 7)
May 28, 2013
Note: This piece is cross-posted on the Pew Research Center’s new blog, Fact Tank. You can follow Fact Tank on Twitter at @FactTank.
Parents who have minor children at home are a relatively tech-savvy group. They are more likely than other adults to have computers, internet access, smartphones, and tablet computers. (This relatively high tech use may be due to the fact that parents with minor children living at home tend to also be younger than other adults.) They are also more likely than adults without children to read e-books.
But as parents adopt new reading habits for themselves on electronic devices, the data show that print books remain important when it comes to their children.
More than nine in ten parents of minor children say it is important to them that their children read print books—eighty-one percent say it is “very important,” and an additional 13% say it is “somewhat important.” Very few say having their children read print books is “not too important” (3%) or “not important at all” (3%).
E-reading has been on the rise—some 23% of Americans ages 16 and older read an e-book in 2012, up from 16% the year before. The proportion of American adults who own an e-reading device is increasing as well, with 31% of adults ages 18 and older now owning a tablet and 26% owning an e-reader. And even at the end of 2011, over a third of tablet and e-reader owners who did long-form reading in digital format said they were reading more due to the availability of e-content.
When it comes to sharing books or reading with a child, most Americans adults (not just parents) who have read both print and e-books think that print books are the better option.
So why do parents want their children exposed to print? We don’t know exactly. But Pew Research gained some insight from a recent in-person focus groups.
Modeling the Reading Habit: Some parents may want their children to have the same pleasant book-reading experience they remember from when they themselves were children. In fact, one parent from the focus group said that reading printed books himself was important because it helped him model reading habits for his children:
“I’m reading like a book [on a tablet] and my children don’t know if I’m reading a book or if I’m playing on Twitter, so I think it’s important to have the book so that they go, ‘Oh Dad’s reading’ . . . not just, ‘Oh he’s updating his Facebook page.’ I think there is like a difference in that.”
Many parents described positive memories of their early reading habits and library use, memories centered around print books. One said that picking up books from the library was a reward for good behavior:
“My parents were real big on [the library]. It was a treat for us, twice a week after church . . . You behave, you [get] to go to the library and get a book, get two books if you’re real good, read them that week and bring them back.”
A Sensory Experience: Some think that children’s books, which often feature large illustrations and may incorporate various tactile elements, aren’t as well suited to e-ink or touchscreens. And given the relative newness of e-reading and uncertainty around the effects of reading on screens, some parents may simply want to temper the exposure their children have to digital materials. “Somehow, I think it’s different,” Alexandra Tyler toldthe New York Times. “When you read a book, a proper kid’s book, it engages all the senses. It’s teaching them to turn the page properly. You get the smell of paper, the touch.”
What do you think? Do you prefer some formats for your own reading, and others for reading with children? Let us know in the comments.
May 16, 2013
Source: San Mateo County Library (Flickr)
As this week is Children’s Book Week, we took a closer look at our data on children and reading from our recent report on parents, children, libraries, and reading. To begin with, most parents read to their children regularly: About half of all parents with children under 12 at home say they read to their child every day, and another quarter say they do so a few times a week.
We also found that parents with younger children read more often to their children than the parents of older children. Almost six in ten parents whose youngest child is under the age of six say they read to their child every day, compared with about one in three parents whose youngest child is 6 to 11 years old.
Interestingly, parents who have both young children and teenagers in the house are less likely to read to their young children every day than parents who only have children under 12 (29% vs. 60%).
Another major finding was that parents say libraries are very important resources for developing their children’s reading habits. In our national phone survey, for instance, 94% of parents say that libraries are important for their children, and more than eight in ten (84%) of these parents say a major reason they view the library as important is that it helps to develop a love of reading and books.
We also see this reflected in children’s library use. Among the 70% of parents who say their child visited a public library in the past 12 months, 87% say their child did so in order to borrow books — the most common reason reported by parents. Younger children and older children were equally likely to visit the library for this reason, as shown in the chart below.
Finally, in the course of gathering material for our report, we asked librarians from around the country open-ended questions about their thoughts on various library services via online questionnaires and in-person and online focus groups. In their responses, many library staff members said they thought services for early childhood literacy, including story times and summer reading programs, were among the most important services their libraries offered:
“If you’re trying to raise a reader, you need your library. It’s too expensive and somewhat wasteful to buy the hundreds of books a young reader goes through in those first years of learning to read.”
“[One of public libraries’ strengths is] being a child’s doorway to literacy.”
“I think children’s programs will always be the foundation of public libraries. Parents will always want their kids to participate in story time and such and there is no technology that can replace that experience.”
“We are always looking forward, adopting new technologies, identifying trends and planning for anticipated needs—while at the same time, adhering to what has worked well in the past. Storytimes to preschoolers has been an important part of library service to children for over fifty years. It is more important today than ever before to teach parents how to read aloud to their children.”
Do you read to your children? Have your children’s reading habits or library use changed in recent years? Share your thoughts on children, reading, and libraries on our Facebook page.
May 15, 2013
Last week, I gave a presentation at the Westchester Library Association’s annual conference that touched on a lot of our recent findings on library use, as well as a broad overview of technology adoption among adults and teens and a quick look at how teens do research in the digital age. While all of those topics deserve their own blog post, I wanted to put up the slides from the talk and spotlight the reports that cover these topics in more detail.
We also have a few related reports coming up in the next month or so – including one about how teens and young adults use libraries – so stay tuned!
Recent reports on teens and young adults:
Read More »
May 01, 2013
In addition to the statistics included in our report, we also asked parents and librarians from around the country about their thoughts on various library services for parents and children. The quotes below are from in-person and online focus groups of library patrons and staff, as well as an online questionnaire of library staff members. More information can be found in the full report.
How parents use libraries
Many of the parents in our in-person focus groups said they were introduced to libraries by their parents or by their schools. In general, they said they had very positive memories of their early library experiences:
“My parents were real big on [the library]. It was a treat for us, twice a week after church . . . You behave, you [get] to go to the library and get a book, get two books if you’re real good, read them that week and bring them back.”
In addition, many parents said they had very positive feelings about their libraries and library staff. However, many often wished that they knew more about what was happening at their library — “there’s so much good stuff going on but no one tells anybody,” one said.
We also asked parents to tell us more about how they use the library with their children. Many described the library as a destination for the whole family, with older children using the library’s resources for schoolwork or to surf the web while younger children attended story times and explored new books:
“A lot of times for school like [my children] need specific articles — like they need more than just one resource for information, so then I’ll take them to the local library . . . if we go, we’re there for hours. So, I just take my work from the office with me and then they do their research there. . . . If they have questions and if I can’t answer them, I ask somebody that works [at the library].”
Early childhood literacy and programs for children
In online questionnaires, many library staff members considered early childhood literacy programs and story times among their most important services:
“I feel that with the early literacy elements and story times and crafts, we are building a foundation for our young children to become lifelong learners. Story time not only provides a educational component, it also provides socialization for the children and the parents, building a close knit community.”
“If you’re trying to raise a reader, you need your library,” one librarian wrote. “It’s too expensive and somewhat wasteful to buy the hundreds of books a young reader goes through in those first years of learning to read.”
Others singled out the unique place libraries can have in children’s lives as a place for children to discover and pursue their own interests. One library staff member wrote that a major strength of public libraries is “serving children in that they are really the only public place in any community where a child’s wants and desires are treated as respectfully as an adults.”
Many library staff members wrote they wanted to help patrons learn to successfully navigate all types of media — and continue to do so as patrons age:
“I believe libraries should take a more active role in teaching patrons — both children and adults — how to interact with digital materials, whether that is computers, digitized materials, e-books, automatic book checkouts, or other devices. … Libraries should step up to the plate and assume responsibility for the digital education of the community.”
Coordinating with schools
Many librarian respondents emphasized the importance of working with area schools. Many respondents said that area schools had little (or no) library support, leaving students to rely on local libraries:
“Our local school does not have a librarian, so we feel even more responsible to the students and their parents when it comes to literacy and academic support.”
And many library staff members said they were also seeking to complement schools’ efforts in bringing newer technologies into the classroom, including tablet computers:
“I want to be able to incorporate iPads into my story time and school-age programming, and I want to be able to include ‘appvisory’ services for caregivers so that they can utilize technology with their children in informed, intentional ways.”
Libraries as community centers
One subject that came up several times in the focus group discussions was how the parents valued the role of their local public library in the larger community. One parent who has a 3-year-old son said:
“To me, a library . . . is a necessity. They have lots of things to offer. It’s kind of like home room for your community. If you want to find something out then you just ask. And they have a lot of things that they offer that they don’t advertise.”
Other parents said they appreciated their relationships with library staff, who were able to recommend specific library books, services, and other resources the patrons would not have known about otherwise. One mother said it was helpful when library staff could point out resources she might be interested in, because many times she wouldn’t think to ask about them in the first place:
“If I want to know something, I’d know to ask [the library staff] questions, but I’m not going to always know what questions to ask because I’m not going to always know what information I can ask about. . . . [An activity] might not necessarily be posted, and if it’s not posted, how would you know to [ask]?”
Many parents said they use the library as a general destination for their family, and appreciated comfortable spaces where they and their children could read and work:
“I actually enjoy being able to go and sit down at a big table with my children and just do homework, lay all the books out. You know what I mean? Interact with them and be able to – instead of being all closed in in the house or whatever. It’s kind of like your mind flows more when you’re at the library.”
When asked about public library’s strengths, one library staff member wrote:
“Libraries — especially public libraries — should be the great connector. Connecting people with information and the resources they need to make informed decisions about their lives. Connecting people with the resources they need for entertainment. Connecting children to books and the love of reading. Connecting people to their roots and their past.”
On responding to community needs
Many library staff members wrote about how libraries could respond to the broader needs of parents and children in the community:
“Many parents who are new to the community, or even to the [country], use the library as a gateway to learning about the area. They see us as an institution that has all the answers not just about books and movies, but about schools, daycare, local parks, other groups that cater to families, etc.”
“We’re definitely an important social place for many groups — children after school, the elderly and retired, job seekers, parents with children. I don’t think we can be just an online presence. Our physical space means a lot to people in our town.”
“I think it is important for libraries to respond to their community needs. Not every library needs to be ran the same way or offer the same services. It is also important for libraries to offer services and programs that match the demographics of their communities. Freeing up space for children doesn’t make sense when the majority of your users are 45+.”
Read more in the full report: http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2013/05/01/parents-children-libraries-and-reading/
April 11, 2013
Curious about what libraries research we’ve done—and what’s up next?
You’re in luck: We’ve updated our research timeline with links to all our libraries-related reports so far, and well as a more detailed description of our upcoming releases. (Our next report, which studies parents and children at libraries, will be out in early May.)
Click here to see the updated timeline, or check out the full list of all our libraries reports and other publications.
You can also sign up for our email alerts in order to be notified of future reports.
April 04, 2013
LibraryScienceList.com made this neat infographic based on Kristen Purcell’s keynote address for the 2012 State University of New York Librarians Association Annual Conference last June. In case you want to dig into the data behind the slides, here are some (updated) links to the types of data found in the presentation and infographic:
Internet and technology use
March 18, 2013
It’s a question that librarians, booksellers, and others have heard often, perhaps even more so at a time when the output and availability of the written word has never been higher. And it’s a question that new book-recommendation sites such as Bookish and BookScout are trying to answer, joining a plethora of communities and services already trying to navigate the tricky task of helping you decide which book to pick up next.
The problem of wading through so many options is not confined to books, of course; Netflix famously challenged developers to improve its movie recommendation engine, Amazon suggests products based on previous purchases, and Pandora builds personalized “radio” stations with tracks it hopes you’ll love.
But when it comes to books, at least, the majority of Americans turn to their friends and family to decide what they’ll read next. According to last year’s e-borrowing report, the majority (64%) of Americans ages 16 and older said they get book recommendations from family members, friends, or co-workers. Another 28% get them from online bookstores or other websites, 23% hear about books from bookstore staff, and 19% get recommendations from librarians or library websites.
Of course, the various ways people find and share books are often quite complex, involving several or all of those sources. “If I hit on a genre I like,” one reader told us in an online questionnaire, “I’ll go to Amazon.com, look up a book I’ve read and enjoyed, and then look to see what other books Amazon thinks is like the book I just looked up. I also use social networking book sites, like Goodreads, to get ideas. I also use recommendations from Facebook friends as a place to start.”
Another aspect of the process that many people mentioned in focus groups and our online panels is the serendipity of the found book. Many people love to browse at bookstores, and ogling other people’s bookshelves is a time-honored pastime among bibliophiles. And when we asked people what they do at libraries, one of the top activities for all patrons was simply browsing the stacks — as popular an activity as borrowing print books.
Browsing gets a little trickier in the digital sphere, however, with the rise of e-reading — 23% of Americans ages 16 and older read an e-book in the past year — and its issues are compounded for e-book borrowers. In our earlier report on e-books at libraries, many e-book borrowers lamented that their only browsing option was to scroll through page after page of titles, with few useful ways to sort through the catalog.
Instead, several of the patrons in our panel said they had developed a workaround using commercial interfaces, which often include reviews, recommendations, and other ways of discovering new titles: “I will sometimes go to Amazon to find titles I might like, then search them in OverDrive, since Amazon’s interface is so much more reader friendly (tells you what else you might like, etc.),” one wrote. But over and over again, people told us that they wished they had more help finding the gems hidden in their libraries’ online catalogs.
A natural solution might be to simply ask a librarian. After all, readers’ advisory is not exactly a new service for public libraries; as one librarian in a focus groups said, suggesting books for patrons to read has always been part of “the job of the librarian. [Patrons] came up to the desk and said, ‘I like to read Tom Clancy. What am I going to read now?’”
But the crux of the e-book quandary is that the search takes place in the patron’s home, far away from the reference desk. Instead, many people (including both e-book and print borrowers) told us that they would like their library account to offer personalized recommendations based on their previous borrowing history. When asked, 64% of Americans say they would be interested in personalized online accounts that provide customized recommendations for books and services based on their past library activity, similar to the recommendations offered by commercial sites like Amazon.
Librarians did point out, though, that this option presents many potential problems, including some very basic privacy issues. One wrote:
“Customized recommendations also mean retaining records of what patrons have checked out in the past, which we do not currently do because of privacy issues. We are heading towards a system where patrons can ‘opt in’ to have their borrowing record available, but the default will still be to not retain.”
Some libraries that have integrated book recommendations into their system deal with the privacy issues by requiring patrons to explicitly opt in to the service, as noted above. Others avoid the issue altogether by posting general lists of recommended books, or directing patrons to third-party services such as Novelist or Goodreads.
Ultimately, many librarians argued that the best solution might be somewhere in the middle. “We have an online Reader’s Advisory form,” one wrote, “but I usually end up chatting with the person after we give them the list we develop and get a much better sense of what they want. Digital services should be in addition to, not in the place of, face to face services.”
How do you find books to read? Head on over to our Facebook page and let us know!
February 06, 2013
Last week, Salon published a piece by Laura Miller entitled “Bring back shushing librarians,” focusing on some of the findings from our recent report on library services. “[T]here’s a lot to be said for that shushing,” Miller writes, adding, “I’ve long believed that one of the most precious resources libraries offer their patrons is simple quiet.”
The piece has sparked a bit of a debate on a couple blogs and in social media about what people want from libraries. So should libraries shush, or not?
One of the interesting findings that surfaced throughout our research, whether in our nationally representative phone survey, in-person focus groups, and our online panel of librarians, was that Americans want many things from their libraries. About three-quarters said that they want quiet study spaces available, but a similar number said they want programs and classes for children and teens, for instance — a decidedly un-quiet service!
If there’s one thing our research shows, it’s that there’s no one thing people want their libraries to be. They want their libraries to be lots of things, a place where they can study and meet with friends and attend meetings — and more. (And different patrons want different things — and patrons in different communities have different needs, as well.) But we do see some common themes, one of which is that quiet spaces are still an important part of what people expect from their libraries.
And it’s not just patrons. One librarian in our online panel, echoing many others, described quiet study spaces as “essential.” Another highlighted the multiple roles libraries play as spaces in the community: “a place to go where it is reasonably quiet, comfortable — to focus, read, study,” and also as “a place to gather for study groups, group learning and leisure experiences, [and] library-sponsored community events.”
Perhaps this is why, in a separate question, Americans identified having separate spaces for different services as one of the top things libraries should do — only coordination with local schools and free literacy programs ranked higher. A majority (61%) of Americans say that libraries should “definitely” have completely separate locations or spaces for different services, such as children’s services, computer labs, reading spaces, and meeting rooms, and another 27% say libraries should “maybe” do this.
The value of having separate spaces for different activities (especially for noise reduction) was mentioned very often in our focus groups, both by patrons and library staff members.
In our report, we quoted librarians in our online panel who described the effect that separating traditionally quiet activities from typically louder ones has had. “When possible I think that it works well to keep the computer, group meeting, and children’s area noise away from the quieter reading areas,” one wrote. Another said that moving the area for teens away from general adult areas “has made a world of difference.” In this case, quiet was not the only result: “The teens behavior has gotten so much better we no longer need a security guard at the library.”
Many libraries already offer separate spaces for different services. The librarians in our online panel who said they were unlikely to offer this generally cited issues of space or funding; one pointed out that “in small libraries, often operated by a single staff member, separate spaces cannot be for reasons of security or even customer service.”
In a post responding to the Salon piece, the Teen Librarian Toolbox blog offered a few thoughts about some of the issues libraries face when trying to keep the noise levels down:
“Some libraries are better designed to meet the changing landscape of libraries today. They have smaller, independent study rooms. Their children and teen areas are a more reasonable distance from areas designated as quiet study areas. But older buildings don’t always retrofit well to the changing needs of our library populations. Perhaps nowhere do we see this more clearly than in teen services; how many of us have had to try and find a sensible place to put a new teen area in library that didn’t previously recognize the need for teen services? You have to consider things like noise levels, line of sight, location in reference to both the children and adult collections, funding we don’t have and more.”
Finally, another interesting aspect to this discussion is that while the members of our in-person patron focus groups also said that they valued quiet spaces at the library, they didn’t necessarily want the general atmosphere in the rest of the library to be too quiet. When asked to imagine their “dream” library, participants in our focus groups consistently described having a comfortable place where they could not only focus and get work done, but also feel like a part of their community; where “even if you’re by yourself, you don’t feel like you’re by yourself,” as one participant put it. Many described a sort of “coffeeshop” ambience or “living room atmosphere,” a “safe and affordable hangout location” where they could mingle with other people if they wanted to, but can do their own thing if not.
The New York Times recently hosted a “Room for Debate” discussion about the present and future of libraries. I was struck by something that Matthew Battles, the author of “Library: An Unquiet History,” wrote in his response:
“In their long history, libraries have been models for the world and models of the world; they’ve offered stimulation and contemplation, opportunities for togetherness as well as a kind of civic solitude. They’ve acted as gathering points for lively minds and as sites of seclusion and solace. For making knowledge and sharing change, we still need such places—and some of those, surely, we will continue to call ‘the library.’”
What do you think? Should libraries be quiet or bustling — or both? Head on over to our Facebook page and let us know!
January 29, 2013
Our new report takes a close look not only at how Americans are using public libraries, but also what sort of services and programming they think libraries should offer — and what they say they would use in the future.
For this last point, we asked about a range of potential offerings, including online “ask a librarian”-type research service, mobile library apps, library kiosks in the community, and pre-loaded e-readers available for checkout. A breakdown of these ideas’ overall popularity is included below; more information is included in the report, and tables with demographic breakdowns for each item can be found in the appendix.
But we also wanted to include illustrations of some of these more innovative services, to see what they look like on the ground. To that end, we’ve collected examples of many of the types of services mentioned in the report, as well as some “fun and funky” services that we’ve seen pop up at libraries across the county.
We’ll keep updating the list with new examples as we hear about them. Does your library have a neat service we should know about? Send us an email and let us know! And many thanks to everyone who has sent in examples so far.
Examples of services discussed in the report
Technology “Petting Zoo”
The Kent Free Library in Ohio “has hosted ‘Technology Petting Zoos’ to give patrons and community members a chance to have hands-on interaction with a variety of tablets and e-readers. In the library’s meeting room, 12 different devices are available to try out with a librarian on hand to explain their features and detail the differences between various devices.”
Digital Media Lab
The Skokie Public Library in Illinois “offers a digital media lab, a space with content creation tools that allow patrons to create and share video, music, photography, and design projects. Customers have access to computers with editing software, cameras, camcorders, microphones, and musical keyboards. Additionally, the Skokie media lab has a green screen wall for video projects.”
Read More »
January 25, 2013
While we hope you’ve had a chance to read our new report on library services that just came out this week, there are some other great links out there that you should be sure to check out.
OverDrive released some of its major usage and collection statistics for the past year. In 2012:
- 70 million digital titles were checked out.
- The OverDrive Media Console app was downloaded 16 million times.
- Mobile visits increased to 47% of all visits.
- The OverDrive catalog now includes 1 million eBook, audiobook, music and video titles in 65 languages, including 300,000 titles added in 2012.
Public library use in 2010
IMLS published the results of its 2010 Public Library Survey. Among the findings:
- In 2010, there were 8,951 public libraries in the 50 states and the District of Columbia with 17,078 public library branches and bookmobiles.
- Public libraries offered 3.75 million programs to the public in FY 2010, with the majority of these programs (61.5%) designed for children.
- Public libraries circulated 2.46 billion materials in FY 2010, the highest circulation in 10 years.
- In FY 2010, there were 18.50 million e-books available for circulation.
Read more in the press release and full report.
Scholastic released its Kids & Family Reading Report, based on a national survey of children ages 6–17 and their parents.
And while it’s not from this week, the findings of Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, 2011-2012 from the American Library Association and the Information Policy & Access Center at the University of Maryland offer some great context around our report’s findings:
- 62% of libraries report that they are the only source of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities.
- 90% of libraries offer formal or informal technology assistance to library users, and 35% offer one-on-one technology training by appointment.
- 76% of libraries offer access to e-books.
- 39% of libraries offer e-readers for check-out to patrons.
- 15% of library websites are optimized for mobile devices, and 7% of libraries have developed smartphone apps for access to library services.