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Services and Resources for Children and Young Adults in Public Libraries
NCES: 95357
September 1995

The Availability of Resources

While .11 libraries offered books for children, other resources were also available for children to use in a large majority of public libraries. The following resources were available in more than three-fourths of libraries (Table 5).

  • Drug, alcohol, sex information (97 percent)
  • Periodicals (93 percent)
  • Study space (92 percent)
  • Multicultural materials (89 percent)
  • Audio recordings (84 percent)
  • Video recordings or films (82 percent)
  • Materials in languages other than English (76 percent)

Computer technology resources were not widely available for personal use. Thirty percent of libraries reported having personal computers for independent use, and 25 percent reported the availability of computer software for independent use. Only 24 percent reported that CD-ROM software was available.

Demographic Differences in Resources Provided

The presence or absence of a youth specialist and the size of a library were associated with the availability of many resources. Large libraries and those that employ a children's or youth services specialist were more likely to have the resources available for children than smaller libraries and those without specialists. Ninety-eight percent of libraries with a children's or youth services specialist offer periodicals for children compared with 89 percent of libraries without a specialist (Table 5). Similarly, libraries serving 200 or more patrons per week were more likely to provide periodicals for children than those serving less than 200 patrons weekly. Ninety-nine percent of libraries serving 1,000 or more patrons and 97 percent serving 200-999 patrons per week had periodicals for children compared with 84 percent of those with less than 200 patrons per week.

Larger libraries were also more likely to provide materials in languages other than English and multicultural materials. Both types of resources were also more frequently found in libraries with a children's or youth services specialist on staff. For multicultural materials the difference was 97 percent in libraries with a specialist compared to 81 percent in those that do not employ a specialist. The difference was 85 percent compared to 66 percent for materials in languages other than English. Non- English materials were also more frequently available in libraries in the West and in urban and suburban locations. Although video recordings were widely available across all libraries, audio recordings were more likely to be found in larger libraries and in those with a children's or youth specialist on staff.

Computer technology resources for personal use we~ not widely available. Personal computers, computer software for independent use, and CD-ROM software (available in only 24 to 30 percent of public libraries) were somewhat more likely to be found in libraries with a youth specialist and in those with larger numbers of patrons.

The Availability of Services

Many of the most popular children's library services are widely available. Ninety percent or more of public libraries reported that the following services for children are provided at their library (Table 6).

  • Reference assistance (97 percent)
  • Summer reading programs (95 percent)
  • Inter-library loans (93 percent)
  • Story times (90 percent)

Eighty-five percent of libraries offer reading lists, bibliographies, or pathfinders. Seventy-five percent reported having readers' advisory services available, and close to half (53 percent) provided services for children with special needs. Both computer information services and after school and weekend programs for children were available in 48 percent of public libraries.

Homework assistance programs such as homework hotlines and tutoring were unavailable in all but a relatively small proportion of libraries. Tutoring services were reported by 14 percent of public libraries and homework assistance programs by 15 percent.

Demographic Differences in Services Provided


 

As was the case with resources, larger libraries and those with either a children's or youth services specialist were generally more likely to offer various services for children than smaller libraries and those without a specialist.

Story times, which require personal time to conduct, were more frequently available in libraries with a children's or youth services specialist (96 percent) than in libraries that did not have a specialist (84 percent). Libraries with larger numbers of patrons were also more likely to offer story times (98 percent for those serving 1,000 or more patrons per week and 92 percent for libraries with 200-999 patrons per week compared with 81 percent of those serving less than 200 patrons per week).

Readers' advisory services, for example. were far more likely to be found in libraries with a children's or youth services specialist than in other libraries (89 percent compared with 59 percent). Larger libraries were also more likely to offer readers' advisory services for children (50 percent of libraries with less than 200 patrons, 80 percent of those with 200-999 patrons, and 96 percent of libraries serving 1,000 or more patrons per week offered readers' advisory services).

Differences were also found by metropolitan status with suburban and urban libraries providing more services for children than libraries in rural areas. Eighty-eight percent of both urban and suburban libraries offered readers' advisory services for children compared with only 60 percent of rural libraries.

A similar pattern was found for reading lists; libraries with a specialist, those in suburban and urban areas, and larger libraries were more likely to have reading lists available for children. Close to half of all public libraries provided services for special needs children (53 percent) and after school and weekend programs (48 percent), but services for special needs children were more available in large libraries, suburban libraries and in those with a children's or youth services specialist.

After school and weekend programs for children were almost twice as likely to be available in libraries with a children's or youth services specialist (62 percent compared with 33 percent). A large difference was also found when urban (59 percent) and suburban (62 percent) libraries were compared to rural libraries (34 percent); after school programs were two to three times more prevalent in libraries with 200-999 patrons (49 percent) and 1,000 or more patrons (74 percent) than in those serving fewer than 200 patrons per week (25 percent).

Computer information services, available in 48 percent of all public libraries, were almost twice as likely to be available for children in libraries with a children's or youth services specialist (62 percent) than in other libraries (32 percent). Computer information services were also more prevalent in urban or suburban libraries (58 and 59 percent, respectively) than in rural libraries (36 percent). Additional differences were found across size. While only 28 percent of libraries serving less than 200 patrons per week had computer information services available for children, such services were available in 49 percent of libraries with 200-999 patrons per week and 68 percent of those seining 1,000 or more patrons.

Finally, of all services for which data were obtained, homework assistance programs such as homework hotlines and tutoring were unavailable in all but a relatively small proportion of libraries. Only 14 percent of all public libraries offered tutoring and only 15 percent provided homework assistance programs.

Usage of Public Library Services and Resources by Children

Many of the most widely available children's library services are popular among children. For example, 96 percent of libraries report that their children's books receive moderate to heavy usage. Similarly, high usage is reported for summer reading programs, story times, and reference assistance -- all services available in 90 to 97 percent of libraries. Periodicals and study space, also available in over 90 percent of libraries, received moderate to heavy use in about three-fourths of libraries providing these resources (Figure 7).

Some resources showed more variation in usage. Although almost universally available, specialized materials on drug, alcohol, and sex information and inter-library loans are used relatively infrequently by the children. While materials in languages other than English were available in 76 percent of libraries, only 35 percent of public libraries with these materials reported their usage by children was moderate or heavy. Reading lists and multicultural materials are available for children in 85 and 89 percent of public libraries, respectively. However, only 51 percent of libraries that have reading lists report moderate to heavy usage, and multicultural materials receive moderate to heavy usage in only 56 percent of public libraries with this service.

Services designed for special needs children were available in over half of all public libraries, and moderately to heavily used in about one-fourth of libraries that had these services (Figure 8).

Computer information services and after school programs showed a different pattern. Approximately three out of four libraries with computer information services (75 percent) and after school and weekend programs (74 percent) report moderate to heavy use of these services. However, these services are available for children in only 48 percent of the nation's public libraries. A disparity between availability and usage was found for all other technology resources. Only 24 to 30 percent of libraries offer personal computers, computer software, and CD-ROM software for children's use. However, where these resources are available, they are well used. In fact, their use is moderate to heavy in 75 percent of the libraries that make these services available for children.

Sixty-four percent of libraries offering homework assistance programs report moderate to heavy usage, and 58 percent of libraries with tutoring programs report moderate to heavy usage. However, nationally less than one in seven libraries offer these services for children.

Group Programs for Children in the Library and Outside the Library

Libraries also offer various group programs for children both in and outside of the library including story times, book talks, crafts, puppet shows, films, and others. Although group programs are offered for infants and toddlers, libraries are more likely to direct their resources to preschoolers and school-age children. Eighty-six percent of libraries offer group programs within the library for preschool and kindergarten-age children, and 79 percent provide them for school-age children. On the other hand, less than half (40 percent) provide programs in the library for infants and toddlers (Figure 9).

Group programs offered for children outside the library are less prevalent but follow a similar pattern of availability. Only 7 percent of libraries provide programs for infants and toddlers outside the library, while a larger proportion offer these programs for pre-schooled and kindergartners (28 percent). School-age children are the most likely to be the beneficiaries of library programs offered outside the library, with 35 percent of libraries providing this service.

On average, libraries offered 13 programs in the library for infants to toddlers, 43 for preschooled-kindergartners, and 23 for school-age children over the last year (Table 7). Differences in the number of programs in the library were consistently found by metropolitan status, size of patronage, and the availability of a children's or youth services specialist. Urban and suburban libraries provided more programs in the library for children of all ages than rural libraries. The mean number of group programs for children increased with the size of patronage. and libraries with a children's or youth services specialist provided many more programs in the library than those libraries without a specialist.

Small numbers of group programs for children were offered outside the library during the last 12-month period. An average of only 1 program for the infant-toddler age group was offered, 5 for preschool- to kindergarten-age children, and 7 for school-age children.

Program Comparisons: 1994 and 1989

Interestingly, the results of this survey regarding group programs offered for children in the library are very similar to the results of the similar FRSS survey conducted in 1989. For example, while 86 percent of libraries now offer group programs for preschool and kindergarten-age children in the library, 83 percent offered the programs in 1989. Similarly, while 79 percent have group programs for children in 1994 for school age children, 82 percent reported these programs in 1989. One striking and potentially important difference was found in the availability of group programs. While in 1989 only 29 percent of public libraries offered group programs for infants through 2- year-olds, 40 percent now have programs for the infant-toddler group (Figure 10).

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