Pew Research Center released a new study on Thursday showing that library users are more social than people who do not go to libraries. The report questioned 6,000 Americans, ages 16 and up, and found that more than two-thirds of Americans are actively using libraries. Along with actively using the library, users typically are more social than those who do not use the library. Library users also tend to be more active. 30 percent of the population are frequent library users; this 30 percent tends to be a younger group, with education and technology skills.
While the results of the study may surprise some, it does not surprise Children’s Librarian Marcie Smedley, who is the assistant branch manager and youth services department head at the Gibson Library in Henderson, NV. Smedley stated, “From my perspective as children’s librarian, we get a lot of families in the library who participate in other community activities. People who come to the library tend to be engaged.”
Though there has been a long stigma associated with libraries, silence, and maybe even nerds, this study is disproving it by showing that library users are a more social group than those who do not use the library. The report stated that individuals who use the library are also more likely to go to museums and sporting events. In addition, they are more likely to know their neighbors and socialize with their friends and family. On the other hand, the study also showed that those who do not use their libraries are less social and do not typically attend community events.
The study also found that in addition to being a social group, those who are the most engaged in library use are also extensive technology users. While individuals who love traditional print have a place in library usage, the most active library users are in the know when it comes to technology. This shows that the notion that libraries are threatened by technology is a misconception. “A lot of our regular users have incorporated technology with their library use. People have the idea that technology will lead to the downfall of libraries, and that is not true,” Smedley said.
Technology is important to libraries. In fact, technology is even mentioned in the Henderson Libraries mission statement, as it references its commitment to providing free state of the art technology for its patrons.
Smedley explained that technology is not just limited to eBooks, but that it plays many roles in the library. She said, “A high school kid who is doing a research paper and using Google as his or her only search engine will not have proper research. We teach how to find credible sources versus just anything that anyone can put on the internet.”
Frequent library users understand the importance that libraries play in their communities. The study showed that recurrent library users are zealous readers who “think that libraries play an essential role in encouraging literacy and a love of reading.” Many people who are not library users may feel that the library only offers books, but that is not true. Many public libraries offer more than “just” books; they also host programs to foster literacy. Programs at libraries are aimed at all ages, children, youth, and adults.
While libraries do foster a love of reading and encourage literacy, it now appears they may also offer their users something else, a chance to be part of a social group.
By Ashley Campbell