Who enjoys the library? Survey says: parents!
In the aftermath of the digital revolution where seemingly everything is at your figure tips, on your screen, in the comfort of your own home, you may wonder who is frequenting the public library? In a time where many governments are cutting funding for both culture and education, it may be more important than ever to look at research about the importance of libraries for our communities and society as a whole. This harsh and changing reality makes this month’s new survey from the Pew Center in the United States “Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading”, extremely relevant.
In total, 94% of parents with children under the age of 18 say that libraries are very important for their children. 84% of this group say the reason for this importance is to help stimulate a love of books and reading. The 2012 survey, which includes data from interviews with 2,252 Americans, also reveals that 50% of parents with a child under the age of 12, read to their child every day.
An interesting side effect of all the importance parents give to libraries for their children, is that they become the most frequent users of libraries out of all other demographic groups. Examples of this phenomenon can be found in figures like: 73% of parents with children under the age of 18 have a library card, compared to 59% of other adults. Even the mere act of going to the library in the past year, shows parents at 64% compared to 49% of everyone else. This could be a result of parents feeling that the library is important for their children, so they then learn about the services available to them and end up making more use of them than most others. As the authors of the study point out, this is not a guaranteed correlation, as parents usually have access to a range of digital devices and internet services at home which could make going to the library less interesting.
In terms of mothers and fathers, the survey shows that mothers are more likely than fathers to read to their children (55% to 45%). As a result they also lead the way in how strongly they feel the library is important for their children and how often they use it.
Finally, in terms of income levels, statistically speaking, poorer families view libraries as more important and are more likely to make use of services for their children. 88% of those making 50,000$ (€39.000) a year or less view being able to get help from librarians as very important compared to 71% of those who make above 50K. While 82% of low income parents see programs/classes for kids as vey important compared to only 67% of those who have a higher income.
As libraries find themselves in the austerity cross hairs in different parts of the world, surveys like this show that one place they can look for public support and where they have a great impact, are parents with young children. Even once those children become adults, it is clear that the library experience is one that has a lasting influence.