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

Public Library Resources and Services for Young Adults

Libraries provided information on the existence of a young adult section or collection, the availability and usage of specific resources and services for young adults, and librarians' perceived barriers to best serving young adults as a distinct user group.

Young Adult Collections

Eleven percent of public libraries do not have a young adult collection or section (Table 13). Fifty-eight percent of public libraries provide a section for young adults--that is, they have a separate young adult room or area where the young adult collection is housed. Fifteen percent have a young adult collection of materials but it is shelved with the adult collection, and 16 percent of all public libraries shelve young adult materials in the children's section.

Libraries were asked to indicate ways in which they might serve young adults as a distinct user group. Less than half of public libraries (43 percent) maintain a budget line for young adult materials (Table 14). Forty percent collect statistics on young adult circulation, and only 30 percent train library staff who deal with the public on serving young adults. Libraries with a young adult or youth services specialist were more likely than those without a specialist to distinguish young adults from other patron groups in terms of the budget(51 percent compared with 37 percent), collect statistics (49 percent to 35 percent), and train staff to serve young adults (43 percent compared with 23 percent).

The Availability of Resources

While all libraries provide books for young adult readers, three quarters or more also provided the following for young adult use (Table 15).

  • Drug, alcohol, and sex information (97 percent)
  • College and career information (93 percent)
  • Study space (90 percent)
  • Periodicals (89 percent)
  • Multicultural materials (84 percent)
  • Audio recordings (76 percent)
  • Video recordings (75 percent)

Another sixty-four percent have materials for young adult use in languages other than English.

However, young adults can use a variety of computer technologies in only about one-fourth to one-third of libraries.

  • Personal computers for independent use (30 percent)
  • CD-ROM software (31 percent)
  • Computer software for independent use (25 percent)


Demographic Differences in Resources Provided

Differences in the availability of many library resources were found across libraries. Those with a young adult specialist or youth services specialist and larger libraries were significantly more likely to offer 10 of the 11 resources for which data were obtained. Specifically, libraries with a specialist and those with large numbers of patrons were more likely to have study space, periodicals, multicultural materials, audio recordings, video recordings, materials in languages other than English, CD-ROM software, personal computers for independent use, and computer software.

For videos and materials in languages other than English, differences were found by metropolitan status. Urban libraries were less likely to offer videos for young adults than their suburban and rural counterparts (67 percent for urban compared with 76 percent for both suburban and rural libraries). On the other hand, for materials in languages other than English, rural libraries trailed other libraries with 57 percent compared to 69 percent for urban and 70 percent for suburban.

Regional differences were reported for multicultural and non- English materials. Only 43 percent of libraries in the West. compared to 79 to 88 percent in other regions provided young adult multicultural materials. On the other hand. young adults in the West had proportionately greater access to materials in languages other than English than those in the Northeast (74 percent of libraries in the West compared with 55 percent in the Northeast).

Size of patronage and the presence of a youth specialist were related to the availability of personal computers and CD-ROMs. Forty percent of libraries with a specialist had personal computers available for young adults compared with 24 percent of other libraries. Small libraries were less likely to have personal computers (19 percent) than those serving 200 or more patrons per week (34 percent for 200-999 patrons per week and 39 percent for 1,000 or more patrons per week). Libraries in the Central region of the country were almost twice a likely to have personal computers for young adults (41 percent compared to 22 to 27 percent in other regions).

CD-ROMs were more commonly found in larger libraries and those with young adult specialists. For example, 45 percent of libraries with a young adult or youth services specialist had CD-ROMs compared with 23 percent for other libraries. By patronage, availability ranged from 18 percent for libraries serving less than 200 patrons per week to 31 percent for those with 200-999 patrons per week and 45 percent for libraries sewing 1,000 or more weekly patrons.

Computer software for personal use was more readily available for young adults in libraries with a specialist (35 percent) than in those without a young adult or youth services librarian (20 percent).

The Availability of Services

A large majority of libraries (73 to 98 percent) offer the following services for young adults (Table 16).

  • Reference assistance (98 percent)
  • Inter-library loans (95 percent)
  • Reading lists, bibliographies, or pathfinders (74 percent)
  • Readers' advisory (73 percent)

About half of all public libraries offer summer reading programs (57 percent) and computer information services (53 percent) for young adults.

Libraries were less likely to offer young adults these services.

  • Presentations and workshops on topics of interest to teenagers (33 percent)
  • Homework assistance programs (12 percent)
  • Young adult book or film discussion groups (12 percent), and
  • Tutoring (10 percent).

In addition, 6 percent of libraries have a young adult advisory board (6 percent)

Demographic Differences in Services Provided

Larger libraries, libraries in suburban and urban locations, and those with a young adult or youth services specialist were more likely to offer readers advisory services, reading lists, homework assistance programs and computer information services. Libraries in rural regions consistently reported lower rates of availability than their urban and suburban counterparts for these services. While only 65 percent of rural libraries prepared reading lists for young adults, they were available in 78 percent of urban libraries and 83 percent of suburban libraries (Table 16). Readers' advisory, available in81 percent of suburban libraries and 85 percent of urban libraries, was only found in 63 percent of rural libraries. Rural libraries (44 percent) were also less likely to provide computer information services for young adults than those in urban (58 percent) and suburban (62 percent) areas and only about half as likely as their suburban and urban counterparts to offer homework assistance programs (7 percent for rural compared with 15 to 17 percent for suburban and urban. respectively).

Interestingly, libraries in the Southeast and Central regions of the country (66 and 63 percent, respectively) were also more likely to make summer reading programs available for young adults than those in the Northeast (48 percent) and West(51 percent).

Libraries with a young adult or youth services specialist were more than twice as likely to offer presentations and workshops of interest to young adults (52 percent compared to 21 percent). Libraries with higher patronage, in urban and suburban areas, and in the Southeast were also more likely to conduct these activities. Larger libraries, those in urban and suburban areas, and those with a young adult or youth services specialist on staff were most likely to offer homework assistance programs.

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