November 24, 2015

Pew: Parents Love the Library

Virtually all parents surveyed by the Pew Internet & American Life Project for its Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading study—94 percent—say libraries are important for their children; nearly 80 percent say they’re very important. (Parents of children under six are particularly likely to say libraries are very important.)

It’s still mostly about the content, for both parents and kids: 84 percent of parents value libraries because they help inculcate a love of reading and books, and 81 percent, because they provide information and resources not available at home. Of those whose kids visited a public library in the past year (70 percent of all respondents), 87 percent did so to borrow books.

One interesting disparity is on the subject of programming: while almost every parent (97 percent) says it is important for libraries to offer programs and classes for children and teens, only 46 percent of children actually attended a library event, and 32 percent went to a library-sponsored book club or program.

While it’s not surprising that parents use the library more than non-parents—all those kids aren’t getting there on their own, especially those under sixyears old—it’s notable that parents aren’t only interested in child-centered library activities, and in fact are more open to new library services, as well as more knowledgeable than other adults about current library offerings. According to the report, “parents express more interest than other adults in an array of tech-oriented services that are being discussed and implemented among some American libraries, including online reference services, cell phone apps to connect to library materials, tech ‘petting zoos’ that would allow people to try out new gadgets, and library kiosks or ‘Redbox’-type offerings in the community.”

In particular, parents living in households earning less than $50,000 are more likely than parents in higher income households to rate library services as very important, and to say they are likely to take advantage of e-reading related resources.

Critics of the study, however, say that the sample was skewed toward parents that are white, relatively young, and well-educated, and so do not represent the general population. For more on this critique, see Librarians Take Aim at Pew Study on Parents and Libraries.


Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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