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


Public libraries have become a fundamental element in current national discussions on how to ensure a better educated and more literate population. The responsibility to provide all citizens with free and equal access to information makes the role of public libraries both significant and critical in the forward movement of education reform. Libraries make up the only educational system that supports a person horn infancy to old age. Available to everyone, they are essential to the achievement of the National Education Goals.

In response to the increased interest in the direct involvement of public libraries and their impact on the educational reform movement, the Office of Library Programs in the U.S. Department of Education requested and supported this study. The various kinds of public library services and resources currently available for children and young adults was the focus of the study. The study was also intended to update selected information from similar surveys conducted in the late 1980s. This report presents the findings of two library surveys conducted for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) by Westat, Inc., a research firm in Rockville, Maryland. The surveys were conducted through the NCES Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) during spring 1994. Each survey was conducted with a different nationally representative sample of public libraries. Data were collected for individual buildings rather than for library systems.

The Survey on Library Services for Children in Public Libraries included questions regarding the availability of specialized staff and resources for children and the adults who live and work with them, the use of available services, the prevalence of cooperative activities between public libraries and other organizations sewing children, and barriers to providing increased library services for children. The Survey on Library Services for Young Adults in Public Libraries obtained information on services for young adults, the use of available services, cooperation between libraries and other organizations, ways in which libraries interact with schools, and factors perceived as barriers to increasing young adult services and their use.

This report also includes comparative data from the first national survey on young adult services in public libraries, conducted in 1988, and the similar survey of public library services for children conducted in 1989 through FRSS. Where relevant, comparisons are made.

Survey findings are presented for all library buildings, and by the following library characteristics:

  • Number of patrons per week as a measure of size

    Less than 200


    1,000 or more

  • Geographic region



    Central West

  • Metropolitan status




  • Presence of a youth specialist
    • For the children's survey, defined as the presence or absence of a children's or youth services specialist
    • For the young adults survey, defined by the presence absence of a young adult or youth services specialist or

Characteristics of public libraries are often interrelated. For example, whether the library has a youth specialist often is related to library size as measured by the number of patrons per week. Because of the relatively small sample size, it is difficult to separate the independent effects of size, metropolitan status, and presence of a specialist.

Data have been weighted to national estimates of public libraries. All comparative statements made in this report have been tested for statistical significance through chi-square tests or t-tests adjusted for multiple comparisons using the Bonferroni adjustment and are significant at the .05 level or better. However, not all significant comparisons have been presented.