Nothing warms this librarian mama’s heart like my three year old son begging to go to the library and then jumping up and down with joy when I agree. My son refers to my issue of Public Libraries magazine (which lies next to his issue of Ranger Rick on our coffee table) as “Mommy Loves Libraries” magazine. A Pew Internet report released earlier this week confirms we are not the only library loving mother child team out there.
According to the report’s findings, 70% of parents report their child visited a public library in the past 12 months. Parents are actually more likely than other adults to use libraries.
What did the report reveal about parents, children, and library technology? In some ways, library using parents are a group that views technology very positively. And as the report notes, “Parents’ ties to libraries are all the more striking because parents are more likely than other adults to have computers, internet access, smartphones, and tablet computers — tools that might make them less reliant on libraries because they have access to information and media through other convenient platforms.”
The report found that parents have more interest than other adults in various tech services that are being discussed and implemented among 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.”
Although 81% of parents think it’s “very important” for libraries to provide public access computers for the community, their interest in using expanded technology services for themselves is moderate. Parents expressed some interest in using other library technology services that might be offered:
- 46% would be “very likely” to use a cell phone app to access library services
- 41% say they are very likely to use an online research service where they could pose questions to a librarian
- 41% would like to see library kiosks located throughout the community where they could check out books, movies or music
- 37% are interested in personalized online accounts
- 37% are interested in classes on how to download library e-books (only 25% are interested in a class on how to use e-readers)
- 34% are interested in a digital media lab for creating digital content
Reservations about Technology
Yet, parents also expressed reservations about technology and its impact on reading (or not reading) books. In a focus group conducted by the Pew researchers, a father said he valued reading print books because they helped model reading habits for his children:
“I’m reading like a book [on a tablet] and my children don’t know if I’m reading a book or if I’m playing on Twitter, so I think it’s important to have the book so that they go, ‘Oh Dad’s reading’ . . . not just, ‘Oh he’s updating his Facebook page.’ I think there is like a difference in that.”
Other members of the focus group expressed similar feelings, saying they valued the relative permanence of printed books because they can be passed down “from generation to generation.” Another parent said that although he sees that e-books have some advantages — for example, they are easier to carry when traveling — “I like those books in my hands sometimes.”
Parents also expressed a desire for the library to provide information literacy learning opportunities for children and also for themselves:
“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, e-books, automatic book checkouts, or other devices. The world is becoming increasingly digitized, and many people are falling behind because they are not part of the school system or because the system has failed them. Libraries should step up to the plate and assume responsibility for the digital education of the community.”
and similiarly from a librarian:
“I really want to implement a program teaching digital literacy to young children. I would love to have iPads available for children to come in and use to learn how to properly navigate and consume digital media.”
As I finished reading the report and writing this article, I asked my son what he likes about libraries. His response, "All the superheroes." I assumed he meant the books with stories about Spiderman and Batman... but he added, "Like Diana [his favorite librarian]... she's a superhero". I hope that as the years go by and the books and the technology continue to change and merge, that he maintains that positive image of librarians - powerful forces for good in the lives of parents and children.