Participation in library programs for kids under 18 has been rising steadily in recent years, from almost 35.6 million/year in 1993, to 54.6 million/year in 2005, to 60.9 million/year in 2008 (the last year for which these statistics are available).
Public libraries play a particularly important role in providing Internet access to minorities and teens in lower-income households. Sixty percent of teenagers who go online use public library Internet access. For example, in households earning $75,000 or more per year, 99% of teens use the Internet from home, while 74% go online from school, and 57% go online from a library. By contrast, in households earning less than $30,000 per year, just 70% of teens go online from home, but 75% have access at school and 72% go online at the library. “For many minority and lower-income teens, schools and libraries serve as a primary source of Internet access. While 93% of teenage Internet users go online from more than one location, schools and libraries serve as a primary source of Internet access for many minority and lower-income teens.”
Teens are regular and enthusiastic patrons who continue to visit and utilize the public library at increasingly greater rates. In a 2007 poll, it was found that one-third of teens between the ages of 12–18 visited the public library ten times a year or more. Seventy-eight percent of teens who consider themselves “regular library visitors” borrow books and other materials for personal use from the public library on a frequent basis. Computer and online games have become part of the mix at many public libraries, and some use gaming to attract new patrons. Libraries’ response to gaming demonstrates the institutions’ flexibility and willingness to innovate in their response to changing audience interests. The Public Library Association’s 2007 Public Library Data Service Statistical Report, which tracked young adult service trends in public libraries, found that nearly 90% of the public libraries surveyed offer young adult services; over half (51.9%) employ at least one full-time equivalent staff person dedicated to fostering young adult programs and services. Compare this to 1994, when just 11% of libraries had a young adult librarian; 58% of librarians considered the lack of staff a barrier to increasing services for young adults and 61% indicated that insufficient services, resources, and programs were moderate or major barriers to increasing services and resources for young adults.