by Dennis Yang

Filed Under:
libraries, pew internet

Shocker: College Aged Folks Go To The Library

from the yay-the-pew-internet dept

From the fine folks over at Pew Internet, a new study reports that young adults are most likely to visit a library when confronted with a problem to solve -- despite the wealth of online information available to them on the internet. Although most libraries have now added internet terminals, for the most part, libraries are still struggling to keep pace with the times, and haven't really done much to advance their position as knowledge providers. Though the article does point out that young adults (aged 18-30) are the most active library users (with 62% having visited a library in the past year), the report itself (pdf) paints a slightly different picture. When faced with a problem to solve, the percentage of people that looked on the internet, 58%, greatly outpaced the 13% that went to a public library. So, while it's possible to paint a nice picture with the previous statistic, perhaps it's not quite as rosy as the article suggests. Furthermore, of the 13% of those that visited the library, 65% were there to use the internet. Perhaps the reason that young adults visit the library more than the rest of the population is simply because libraries are more accessible to them, since many of them are at college. So, once again, may this serve as a reminder that 73% of studies may be used to show just about anything.

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  • identicon
    Simon Chamberlain, 2 Jan 2008 @ 7:17pm

    Hi Dennis,

    A slight misinterpretation in your post, I'm afraid:

    If you look at page 19 (of the PDF), you'll see that 53% of Americans visited a public library in the past 12 months. Not 13%. The study didn't look at college libraries, just public.

    The 13% figure comes from a survey question where Pew asked: "think of a recent problem you've had. Where did you go for information on this problem?". Here, 13% said libraries (58% used the internet). As a reference librarian, I'm saddened about the low figure for libraries, and it's definitely something we need to work on.

    Of those 13%, you're right to say that 65% used the internet at the library to help solve their problem: but 62% used computers to look up library resources, 58% used library reference materials, and 42% used newspapers and magazines, so clearly libraries are being used in multiple ways.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dennis Yang (profile), 3 Jan 2008 @ 8:43am



      Thanks for pointing that out.. I have updated the post to make it more clear that the 13% number came from the 1st question in the survey.

      I agree with you that the low figure for libraries is something of concern, and that was the point of my post -- the AP article applauds the 62% of young adults that have visited a public library in the past year.


      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Starky, 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:29pm

    Library Internet

    I go to the library when I need to work on a problem, because it's quiet, and the libraries near where I live all have free wifi.
    Here's the equation behind my choice:
    Silence + books + free internet + other people who know things - annoying roommate with a tendency to play bad music really loud = Happiness + Answers + a good working and studying environment. All it needs now is caffeine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Tim Perry, 3 Jan 2008 @ 12:15am

      Re: Library Internet

      Silence eh? Lucky bastard! No one remains quiet at my college library, it's a little better at the public library, but also, a lot smaller.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul`, 2 Jan 2008 @ 9:20pm

    90% of the time it work every time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    James, 2 Jan 2008 @ 10:41pm

    Out pacing really

    Thanks Simon for the clarification. I thought I would add that libraries actually seem not only to be keeping up with the times but in many cases paving the way. Have you been to a public library lately? There is far more than just the Interent and shelves with books: Ipods, Blu Ray and HD DVD, wifi, media stations with all the accessories, video game competitions and more more more.

    I think what librarians are really struggling with is shedding themselves of their 1950s image and promoting what they do have and do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tim Perry, 3 Jan 2008 @ 12:10am

    You know they say 97% of statistics are made up.

    In all seriousness though numbers can be used to prove anything, I saw a demonstration where a guy asked someone about one issue, two different ways and got two different answers. So basically how one words a question can effect the response.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dr. Spin, 3 Jan 2008 @ 9:51am


    ...and I thought the Internet *was* the library. At least to those of us young enough to not quite understand what a baby-boomer is.

    Learn something new every day!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Coaster, 6 Jan 2008 @ 7:20am

    As an autistic child I know says, "Sometimes, they always do that." I've found that to be more accurate than it originally seems, especially in regard to statistics.

    My other thought was, OMG, how dare people seek to learn of their own free will! Don't tell the Government!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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