The State of America's Libraries
Macey Morales
Manager, ALA Media Relations

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Reasons for using the library vary by age, race  

A national poll about public-library use in America conducted in early 2007 turned up some surprising contrasts between Millennials and Baby Boomers. The poll, conducted on behalf of ALA’s Campaign for America’s Libraries, was limited to people 18 years old and older.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents 18 to 24 years old visited a library last year, compared with only 48 percent of those 55 years and older. Those ages 35 to 44 are the most likely to be library users; the poll indicated that 74 percent of them visited a library last year.

While all age groups agreed that the primary reason they go to a library is to check out or read books, their other library activities diverged. Forty-four percent of people under age 35 used library computers, compared with 22 percent of those 55 and older. On the flip side, 22 percent of those 55 and older went to the library for cultural programs or exhibits, compared with 11 percent of people under 35 years old.

There alse were distinct differences among people who identified as white, black or Hispanic. While 63 percent of whites and 64 percent of blacks visited their public libraries, less than a majority of Hispanics (49 percent) did so. Checking out or reading books and education led all other reasons for visiting the library for all three groups, but blacks (50 percent) and Hispanics (42 percent) also used the library to conduct a job search, write a resume or learn new work skills, compared with 15 percent of whites. Blacks (58 percent) and Hispanics (54 percent) also were far more likely to use library computers than were whites (28 percent).

People responded that the most compelling draw to bring more public-library visits would be "more free classes and programs for people my age," followed by the library being open more hours. While this was true for all age groups, people under 35 also supported library cafes, more computer and online resources and Internet access. Proximity to home or office was more important for people 55 years and older.

The results are based on a survey of a nationwide cross-section of 1,003 adults conducted Jan. 19-22, 2007.


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Reasons for using the library vary by age, race