Library users – a stat that concerns me

Flipping through last month’s Public Libraries magazine, I came across an astonishing figure in Susan Hildreth’s column titled Public Libraries and Baby Boomers (sorry I can’t seem to find an updated link to either the magazine or article).

“By 2014, 65 percent of current library customers will be between fifty and seventy years of age.”

In reading this I had several reactions…

  1. - "Wow!" 65% percent over 50 years of age. If this prediction holds true, then libraries are in trouble.

  2. – "Yikes!" Although I hate to admit it, I myself will be a VERY early (note the emphasis on very, as in just barely) entrant into this category by 2014.

  3. – [fingers crossed] I’m glad I chose to have my children later in life & hope the old saying that “kids keep you young” rings true!

  4. – "Yawza!!!!" This is a seriously scary statistic and once you compare it to US population data, it looks even worse.

According to 2000 Census information only 22% of the population are Baby Boomers while nearly 43% of population fall into the Gen X category and below. If this is the case, then perhaps we need to worry more about redefining services to capture the attention of younger library users then focusing on retention of an already well captivated audience.

Please don’t get me wrong ... I’m not disagreeing with Susan’s article which articulates the need to keep services fresh for aging active adults. Library services should always be retooled to remain relevant to changing users needs no matter what the age or demographic. However, the fact that in less than seven years nearly 2/3 of all library users will be over the age of 50, when the population demographics swing the other way, simply means that we need to do more.

PS: Couple this thought with the recent decision from the Maplewood Memorial Library to close their doors every afternoon between 2:45 -5 pm in order to keep middle-schoolers from "congregating in the building to socialize with friends" and we’re really in trouble.

Michael Casey makes some great observations about this and demonstrates how libraries, Like Gwinnett’s Dacula branch have handle issues like these positively. And while I 'm sure there's a bigger story here then what's been shared so far, I sure hope Maplewood can use some of the public's backlash over this announcement to get the funding and resources they need to re-establish service and make the library a positive experience for ALL.

No comments: