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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Young People and Libraries

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 20, 2008

 

 

 

The Pew Internet Project and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has released the results of a new study of public library use in America.

 

The surprise result of the study is that 21 percent of young people in the age group of 18 to 30 years old contact their public library with specific information needs.

 

The director of the project stated, "The notion has taken hold in our culture that these wired-up, heavily gadgeted young folks are swimming in a sea of information and don't need to go to places where information is."

 

People older than 30 years of age turn to public libraries for specific information only half as often as younger people.

 

In addition to using the library's computers, people still use reference books, newspapers, and magazines.

 

Further interviews with young people found that they do use the Internet for information, but they crave more and better information that can be found only in print materials.

 

If you have ever used the Internet, you will remember finding odds and ends, bits and pieces of information that may answer your question.

 

But often an Internet search is only the beginning; the start of a quest for the information.

 

At the Library, we find that the Internet often serves as an "index" to guide librarians to other sources that completes a search.

 

Internet information also needs to be tempered with a review of the source to determine if the information is accurate with a foundation of accuracy.

 

The popular Wikipedia online encyclopedia, which is developed by contributions of information by anyone willing to compose and add data, has great material on a variety of subjects.

 

At the same time, the user needs to realize that some information in Wikipedia can be an odd assortment of information assembled by a group of people.

 

This may be why some teachers will not accept Wikipedia as a resource in research projects.

 

 

Comparison of the Pew Study with a 1996 report of the Benton Foundation do show some differences in library resources in the decade since the earlier report.

 

The Benton study found that in 1996, 44 percent of America's public libraries had Internet access.

 

By 2007, that had grown to 99 percent in the Pew study.

 

That study also suggested that young people were the "least enthusiastic of any age group about the importance of libraries in the digital age."

 

The Pew study finds that to be incorrect a decade later.

 

People have different expectations of their public libraries in 2007,

 

People doing research projects no longer search the infamous volumes of Readers Guide to Periodical Literature so the librarian can hunt for the magazines for articles.

 

Today, backfiles of magazines are all online.

 

Library card catalogs have disappeared and been replaced with online catalogs containing collections of multiple libraries.

 

Digitized materials are either online, or reproduced for everyone to use.

 

In the 21st century, people need information more than ever, and your neighborhood public library remains the place to find that information.