Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Why Teens Use the Library?

I recently read a very interesting article about a study done at two public libraries. The survey was taken to find out why Teens come to the library in order to make libraries more teen friendly. To me the findings of the study were both expected and somewhat unexpected.

Denise Agosto's article, "Why Do Teens Use Libraries? Results of a Public Library Use Survey" examines the finding of a research survey done in public libraries about Teen use. Her article briefly introduces the need for a survey specifically designed for Teens because, while library records can show popularity and collection use, it is unable to interpret why people need and use the library. In order to have a clear picture of why people use the library, teens must be analyzed separately because, as her study shows, what teen look for in the library are not always on par with what adults are looking for in the library.

The finding of the study show that most teens come to the library get information, which was not unexpected. The library as a source of information is relatively agreed upon to be the main function or role. However, in addition to this relatively normal response, there was also a significantly large response to the question that showed teens come to the library for social interactions. They use the library as a space to hang with friends or meet other teens. Another interesting finding was the responses that showed teens came to the library for its physical environment. The reasons were either to use the library as a refuge from a poor home situation or a safe place to be after school. Agosto acknowledges that some of the finding of this study do not correlate with what other experts in the field believe the library's role should be. In particular, the library as a safe space has been largely overlooked. She says that for teens, the physical space of the library and the social space of the library should not be overlooked because, as her study shows, teens need and want their library to have these physical and social spaces. 

Agosto, Denise.  "Why Do Teens Use Libraries? Results of a Public Library Use Survey." Public Libraries, 46.3 (2007): 55-62. EBSCOHost. Web. 5 September 2012.

Bloomington Public Library Teen Party "Epic Fail" photo hunt. An example of the Library as a Social Space for Teens. 

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post Tiffany. I think that teens or young adults represent one of the most misunderstood user groups and probably one that there has been the least amount of research on. I mean, the concept of adolescence as its own unique life stage, was only invented about 100 years ago. So, it is really encouraging to see studies like this taking place. I agree that they need to conduct research that goes deeper than just studying how the collection is used - after all many adults (like myself) check out YA materials and young adults may check out items from the adult collection. Studying this population separately is a must. Furthermore, it makes a lot of sense to me that teens use library space for social interaction. For this age group, every encounter is a social encounter and every public space has social connotations imbued in it. There really are not that many spaces in the community for teens to claim, and many individuals may look down on this group as obnoxious or trouble-making. In light of this and the fact that many young adults are using the library as a means of escape and a safe haven, the library, as a community space, has a social responsibility to embrace these users. I think it is clear that the role of the library is far more than to serve as simply a place to find information. Crating a safe and welcoming space for teens should be a part of every library's mission.

    Great post Tiffany, thanks!