Libraries and childrenHey – look at this new report from one of my favorite research organizations, the Pew Internet and American Life Project. It’s called “Information Searches That Solve Problems.”

People were asked in a telephone survey where they would go to get answers to ten common life situations that could involve government services, such as dealing with a serious illness or going back to school. The Internet was their first choice. The results:

  • 58% of those who had recently experienced one of those problems said they used the internet (at home, work, a public library or some other place) to get help.
  • 53% said they turned to professionals such as doctors, lawyers or financial experts.
  • 45% said they sought out friends and family members for advice and help.
  • 36% said they consulted newspapers and magazines.
  • 34% said they directly contacted a government office or agency.
  • 16% said they consulted television and radio.
  • 13% said they went to the public library.

Stated this way, it doesn’t look that great for public libraries, does it? Yet the most surprising finding is which age group most frequently said it would use the library – the 18 – 29-year-olds of the so-called “Generation Y.” (Geez, I must be really not paying attention. To this baby-boomer, it seemed like Gen Y was all still in high school a year or two ago.) It’s a surprising finding for me, because I’ve heard so many times that Gen Y folks – who are so fixated on electronic tools, such as the Internet and Blackberries – aren’t using libraries.

So, as youth librarians, I think we should take credit for keeping this group involved with libraries. I mean, we worked with them for many years, showing them how great we all are. Right?

One more thing I found interesting was the last paragraph of this release, which discussed people we seldom see:

A major focus of this survey was on those with no access to the internet (23% of the population) and those with only dial-up access (13% of the population). This low-access population is poorer, older, and less well-educated than the cohort with broadband access at home or at work. They are less likely to visit government offices or libraries under any circumstances. And they are more likely to rely on television and radio for help than are high-access users.

If this study piques your curiosity, you can download a PDF version of the whole thing.