You hear a lot of stereotypes about the millennial generation: They’re tech-centric, have low brand loyalty and will never be able to afford a house due to fancy eating habits.
But a new study from the Pew Research Center shows a side of the generation that might surprise some people: It’s the generation most likely to use public libraries.
The survey found that 53 percent of Millennials (ages 18 to 35) had used a public library or traveling bookmobile library center in the past year. That’s compared to just 45 percent of Gen Xers (36 to 51), 43 percent of Baby Boomers (52 to 70) and 36 percent of those in the Silent Generation (71 to 88).
Women, parents and those with college degrees were also more likely to visit libraries, the survey found.
All told, 46 percent of adults had used a public library in the past year, which Pew says is an average finding given past surveys. It’s another sign that library use is holding steady in the U.S., despite the common perception that they are becoming less relevant.
Less surprisingly, Millennials were also the generation most likely to use a library website, with 41 percent reporting they had used one in the past year. It’s worth noting that the survey specifically asked about public libraries, not those on academic campuses.
The findings are an interesting reflection on how libraries have been changing in the past two decades. Pew points out that libraries have increasingly been focusing on digital and technology resources over analog ones, everything from internet connections to laptops and traveling Wi-Fi hotspots that patrons can check out.
In a recent interview with GeekWire, Seattle’s City Librarian Marcellus Turner said technology is key to the future of libraries. He said a lot of residents don’t know about some of the Seattle City Library’s more valuable technology resources, like its large collection of databases or its technology classes for young kids.
But there are some aspects of technology that libraries have yet to master. The Pew survey found that just nine percent of Gen Xers and Boomers used a library app in the past year, and that number dropped to just eight percent for Millennials.
While apps might not be their strong suit, Turner said libraries are generally excited about embracing new technology, particularly when they have the resources and funding to do so.
He also said libraries are doubling down on their efforts to be meeting spaces for the communities they serve.
The Seattle City Libraries host everything from Seahawks viewing parties to robotics lessons for kids, with the hope of returning to their traditional role as the “third place” between home and work where people spend time.
Listen to our full interview with Turner above, and subscribe to the GeekWire podcast in iTunes or wherever you listen for more interviews and analysis.