January 27, 2022

New Report From Pew Internet: Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading

This report was released earlier today by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Direct to Full Text Report (PDF)

Direct to Select Quotes From Parents and Library Staff


What Parents Say

  • 94% of parents say libraries are important for their children and 79% describe libraries as “very important.” That is especially true of parents of young children (those under 6), some 84% of whom describe libraries as very important.
  • 84% of these parents who say libraries are important say a major reason they want their children to have access to libraries is that libraries help inculcate their children’s love of reading and books.
  • 81% say a major reason libraries are important is that libraries provide their children with information and resources not available at home.
  • 71% also say a major reason libraries are important is that libraries are a safe place for children.
  • Almost every parent (97%) says it is important for libraries to offer programs and classes for children and teens.

Library Visits By Children

Some 70% of parents report their child visited a public library in the past 12 months and 55% say their child has his/her own library card. Those children who are library visitors did the following:

  • 87% visited the library to borrow books.
  • 55% went to do school work — and 77% of the children ages 12-17 went to the library for this reason.
  • 46% went to borrow DVDs or CDs.
  • 46% went to attend a library event — and 53% of the children under age 12 went to the library for this reason.
  • 37% went to use the internet — and 43% of the children ages 12-17 went to the library for this reason.
  • 37% went to socialize with their friends.
  • 32% went to a library-sponsored book club or program.

Parents and Technology

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 to check out books and movies.

Selected Comments From Parents and Teachers

From a Librarian:

“I believe libraries should take a more active role in teaching patrons — both children and adults— how to interact with digital materials, whether that is computers, digitized materials, ebooks, automatic book checkouts, or other devices. …Libraries should step up to the plate and assume responsibility for the digital education of the community.

Comment: Are school, academic, and public libraries doing enough to work together for the good of the library user? Sadly, we think this is not the case in many situations. One example, the high school student of today is going to be the academic library user of tomorrow. The transition should be as seamless as possible.

Even though the library community sees libraries and librarians by type, the public and the media don’t often see these distinctions. While all libraries should have their own personalities, a more unified, team approach by all libraries would prove useful. In other words, all libraries and librarians, independent of what they do and where they work, represent each other.

From a Parent of a 3-Year Old

“To me, a library . . . is a necessity. They have lots of things to offer. It’s kind of like home room for your community. If you want to find something out then you just ask. And they have a lot of things that they offer that they don’t advertise.

Comment: Why aren’t they being advertised? If they are being advertised are the advertisements reaching an audience? People can’t use what they don’t know about.

From a Librarian

“Libraries — especially public libraries — should be the great connector. Connecting people with information and the resources they need to make informed decisions about their lives.  Connecting people with the resources they need for entertainment. Connecting children to books and the love of reading. Connecting people to their roots and their past.”

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.