June 27, 2017
Pew report finds millennials are the absolute best generation (at going to libraries)
by Peter Clark
Back in those breezy, know-nothing days of 2014, Russia invaded Crimea, Ebola was terrifying the masses, and we were reporting on a Pew Research Center study that suggested millennials used libraries as much as any previous generations. Nowadays, Russia is merely influencing elections, MRSA doesn’t scare nearly as many people as it should, and Pew have revised their research to say that millennials are the most awesomely library-cruisin’ generation in memory.
If you can’t handle the adulting associated with appreciating libraries, I suggest you tighten the belt on your Bonobos until your freaking legs fall off. Honestly, that’s the only good excuse for not walking into a library right now — all the cool kids (no longer kids, tbh) are doing it. According to new data released by Pew, “53% of Millennials (those ages 18 to 35 at the time) say they used a library or bookmobile in the previous 12 months,” compared with “45% of Gen Xers, 43% of Baby Boomers and 36% of those in the Silent Generation.”
For those of you pondering how the existence of such an antediluvian institution could continue in the age of the internet, might I suggest that 1) you probably don’t read and 2) you probably haven’t been inside a library in a long time. In a 2015 op-ed in the New York Times, Alberto Manguel reminds us that “libraries come in countless shapes and sizes. They can be like the Library of Congress or as modest as that of the children’s concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the older girls were in charge of eight volumes that had to be hidden every night so that the Nazi guards wouldn’t confiscate them.”
It’s no surprise, then, that our libraries have adapted to become technological hubs, while simultaneously continuing to stock the books that readers of all generations need. You’re just as likely to walk into a maker space or computer lab as you are into a stack. And that’s just the point. Libraries have been and continue to be the third place of learning in our society, whatever that society looks like in a given year. Due in large part to libraries’ egalitarian nature, their events, teach-ins, and classes are free and open, making them natural hubs for underemployed millennials seeking skills to break out of their parents’ homes. The Pew research goes on to say that more than a quarter of library-goers attend classes, programs, or lectures. And, in not-so-shocking news, “45% of library users between the ages of 16 and 29 used computers, the internet or the library’s Wi-Fi.” Gotta get that sweet, free wi-fi.
Right now, librarians from around the country are gathered at American Library Association Annual Conference. They’re discussing the books that will be popular over the next year, but they’re also discussing strategies to make their branches more relevant for all of us. And if the Pew research tells us anything, it’s that they’re succeeding.
Peter Clark is a former Melville House sales manager.