Nearly a third of Americans have “high engagement” with their local libraries, and some 39% more have “medium engagement,” according to a new and lengthy report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Library use tends to dovetail with a high level of education, income, comfort with technology and connectivity to community and the world, the new Pew report says.
But who are the folks who make up the most avid library patrons, those who publishers, authors and librarians need to think most about when formulating strategies and planning for this year and next?
Meet the Library Lovers and Information Omnivores:
Library Lovers make up about 10% of all Americans, or a third of “high engagement” library patrons.
According to the Pew report:
Library Lovers have strikingly positive views of public libraries compared with other groups, and with the U.S. population as a whole; they use libraries and library websites more than any other group, and believe libraries are essential at the personal as well as the community level.
On a demographic level, nearly two thirds of Library Lovers are women, some 40% are parents and, overall, they tend to skew younger than the general population. They tend to have achieved a higher level of education and make more money than other groups even though nearly a quarter of this group have either recently lost their jobs or have seen their income decrease significantly. A quarter are looking for a job and about one in six are students. They also skew liberal and Democratic when it comes to politics.
The good news for publishers and authors is that this heavy library use group are readers. Two thirds read books every day. While they borrow lots of books, they are also heavy bookstore visitors, compared with the general population. Nearly three quarters of them go online using mobile devices. They are more involved with their communities than other groups and are more likely to try to learn new things.
When it comes to library use, nobody beats the Library Lover:
— Nearly 90% visited a library in the past 12 months with most visiting weekly
— Three quarters say that if their local library closed it would have a major impact on them
Some 20% of all Americans are Information Omnivores. The group makes up the other two thirds of “high engagement” library users.
According to the Pew report:
Information Omnivores are more likely to seek and use information than other groups, are more likely to have and use technology; at the same time, they are strong users of public libraries, and think libraries have a vital role in their communities. However, they are not quite as active in their library use as Library Lovers, or nearly as likely to say the loss of the local library would have a major impact on them and their family.
On a demographic level, Information Omnivores are wealthy, highly employed and well-educated. About a third live in households that earn $75,000 annually or more. More than half of Information Omnivores are women and 40% are parents. They also skew younger than the U.S. population as a whole and are more urban than other groups. And they are also more likely to be liberal and Democratic politically.
Unsurprisingly, Information Omnivores use the Internet more than any other group and are voracious users of social media: 90% go online every day and 81% use social media. Nearly half own a tablet computer, a much higher proportion than the general population and about two thirds have a smartphone. Like Library Lovers, they read a lot of books, though not as many: Over the past 12 months, they’ve read an average of 17 books each. Unlike Library Lovers, they are more likely to buy their books than borrow them.
When it comes to their library use, Information Omnivores are heavy users and believe in the mission of the library:
— About three quarters believe that libraries improve the quality of life in their communities and about the same proportion believe that if they lost their library, their communities would suffer
— They use libraries more than any other group except Library Lovers