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


  • Sixty percent of the 18 million People entering public libraries during a typical week in fall 1993 were youth -- children and young adults (Figure 1).

  • Thirty percent of all public librarians who provide services directly to the public specialize in services to youth, a ratio of about 1 youth specialist to every 618 youths (derived from tables 2 and 3). Included as youth specialists are librarians specializing in children's services, young adult services, and librarians who are trained to serve both children and young adults.

  • The percentage of libraries with children's and young adult librarians has not changed since the late 1980s. Thirty-nine percent of libraries employ a children's librarian, 11 percent have a young adult librarian, and 24 percent have a youth services specialist on staff (Figure 6 and Table 4).

  • Thirty percent of public libraries have only one librarian on staff (Figure 5).

  • Librarians report that ethnic diversity of children and young adult patrons has increased in over 40 percent of U.S. public libraries over the last 5 years (Table 1).
    • Multicultural materials are available for children in 89 percent of public libraries, and for young adults in 84 percent of public liberties (Table 5 and Table 15).
    • Seventy-six percent of public libraries currently have children's materials and 64 percent have young adult materials in languages other than English (Tables 5 and 15).

  • Although computer technologies are among the most heavily used children's and young adult resources in public libraries, they are also among the most scarce.
    • Only 30 percent of public libraries reported the availability of personal computers for use by children and young adults (Tables 5 and 15). However, 75 percent of libraries having this resource report moderate to heavy use by children, and 71 percent report moderate to heavy use by young adults (figures 8 and 14).

  • Many library programs such as story times, book talks, puppetry, craft, and other group programs primarily target preschool and kindergarten children. Eighty-six percent of libraries offer group programs for preschool and kindergarten age children; only 79 percent of libraries offer group programs for school-age children (Figure 9).
    • Less than half of all public libraries (40 percent) offer group programs for infants and toddlers. These programs are more prevalent now than in 1988, when only 29 percent of libraries offered group programs for infants to 2-year-olds (Figure 10).

  • Only 76 percent of public libraries report working with schools (Table 17). Even fewer work with preschools and day care centre (66 percent and 56 percent respectively; Table 8).
    • Sixty percent of libraries host class visits from schools and 58 percent report resource sharing such as interlibrary loans (Table 18).
    • Fewer libraries report their librarians visiting schools (40 percent) or participating in information sharing meetings with school staff (29 percent Table 18).

  • While almost all libraries provide reference assistance, only about 1 in 7 libraries offer homework assistance programs for children or young adults (tables 6 and 16). However, fairly large percentages of libraries with homework assistance programs report moderate to heavy use by children and young adults. Sixty-four percent report moderate to heavy use by children and 58 percent report moderate to heavy use by young adults (figures 8 and 14).

  • Eleven percent of public libraries have neither a young adult collection or section (Table 13). Only 58 percent of liberties have a separate young adult room or area housing the young adult collection. The remaining libraries shelve the young adult materials with the adult collection (15 percent) or in the children's section (16 percent).

  • Librarians report that insufficient library staff is a leading barrier to increasing services and resources for both children and young adults (tables 12 and 21). Sixty-five percent of librarians consider this a moderate or major barrier to increasing services for children, and 58 percent consider lack of staff a barrier to increasing services for young adults.