From 150 Empire.......

Welcome to the premiere blog post  “From 150 Empire”.  I am Kay Ellen Bullard, Assistant Director of The Providence Public Library (PPL) located at 150 Empire St. in Providence.  My blog will touch upon library issues both general and specific to PPL.  

Recently the Pew Research Center issued a report called “Internet & American Life Reading Habits Survey” that targeted younger American’s reading and library use.  I approached it with tremendous trepidation, of course, expecting it to cause me great angst by declaring the death of the book and the library with it. (Remember the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz when she says “and your little dog, too”?  I can just hear Margaret Hamilton shouting at me “ books are dead, and your little library, too!”  Cackle, cackle.  Where’s a pail of water when you need it?)

But astonishingly, this is not what the report found.  More than eight in ten Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in the past year, and six in ten used their local public library.   Say what?  But wait there’s more.  The findings come from a nationally representative phone survey done in Nov./Dec. 2011 and an online panel in spring 2012.  83 % between 16 and 29 read a book in the past year.  Some 75 % read a print book, and 19 % an   College aged students 18-24 had the highest overall reading rate of any age group and had an increased interest in e.books compared with younger readers.   And here’s a real shocker:  the respondents on the borrowing panel did not all enjoy reading books on just any device at their disposal.  Oh, sure they use them all.  But they seem to be discriminating (in the good sense) as far as what device to read on. And some did not necessarily prefer e.books to print in the first place.  They are discerning enough to know when they want a particular device and when they do not.

It wasn’t all good news.  The majority still did not know they can borrow e.books from many libraries, such as Providence Public and any other public library in the state, and a majority of those expressed a preference to do so on preloaded e.readers.  That in and of itself is not a bad thing, of course.  It’s just that it’s difficult for most libraries to provide enough preloaded e.readers to satisfy the demand.  We’re all struggling to meet the demand via our vendors, i.e. downloadable e.books. 

Overall, however, it was heartening to know young folks are still reading, and still choosing their formats with some discrimination.  There is also an appreciation of the roles libraries play in their communities, an appreciation that grows as the young people age and have children of their own.

Does a report such as this change our impatient, immediate gratification culture, or lessen the great stressors on libraries as we try and figure out how we satisfy demands at the same time as we satisfy hard copy print requests?  No, those challenges remain.  There is, after all, only so much money we have to allocate to materials, people!  But at least we know that the struggle continues to be worth it.   Of course we knew that in our hearts.  We just wanted a little proof to assuage our minds.

Thank you, Pew Research Center.  

To read the report yourself:



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