For the past several years the Pew Research Center has studied our nation’s public libraries — how Americans view and use them, and what their future might be. In the process, they have demolished more than a few myths and uncovered some surprises.
One of those myths to fall under the weight of their data is the commonly held perception that the public library tends to be used primarily by retirees. In fact, the opposite is true. The results of one of their surveys indicate that only 39% of Americans age 65 and older visited a public library in the past 12 months. Their survey began with age 16, and it was that age group (16 – 17 year olds) that had the highest percentage visiting the library (59%).
The group which was second most likely to visit the library in the past 12 months is that of Americans ages 30 to 49 (52%).
Of course, these numbers are national averages, and the visitor profile of any public library will vary by the demographics of the area they serve, as well as the programs, collections, and services they make available for their patrons. But still, it turns out that the American public library may be a younger place than many thought.