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

General Information on Public Libraries

Although the survey's focus was on services to children and young adults, some basic information about libraries was collected: the number of patrons in a typical week, the weekly hours of operation, the number of librarians, and the number of children's, young adult, and youth services specialists on staff.


About 18 million people entered a library in a typical week in fall 1993, an average of 1,180 per library building (Table 2). Thirty-seven percent of these library patrons were children and 23 percent were young adults (Figure 1). Weekly patronage was related to the metropolitan status of the libraries. with urban libraries having the largest number of patrons pr week and rural libraries having the smallest number.

Hours of Operation

Library buildings were open an average of 39 hours per week in fall 1993. Libraries having 1,000 or more patrons per week were open more hours than those serving fewer than 200 patrons. Similarly, urban libraries were open longer hours than rural libraries.

Although the average number of hours responded was 39, this number does not capture the diversity in operating hours across libraries (Figure 4). Libraries reported hours of operation from 10 or fewer hours per week (6 percent of libraries) to 61 or more hours per week (13 percent).

Library Services Staff

At the time of  the survey (spring 1994), tie mean number of public service librarians2 per library building was 3.8 (Table 3); however, because of the wide variation in number of librarians per library, this figure can be misleading. More than half of all libraries had only one or two librarians --30 percent had only one and 23 percent had two (Figure 5). Moreover, a small fraction of libraries (2 percent) had no public service librarian. At the other end of the spectrum, 10 percent had 9 or more librarians.

The average number of librarians per building varied by metropolitan status and number of patrons per week, with urban and large libraries having more librarians than rural and small libraries (Table 3).

Children's, Young Adult, and Youth Services Specialists

Two of eve~ five libraries had a children's specialist 11 percent had a young adult specialist, and 24 percent had a youth services specialists on staff (Figure 6). Youth services specialists spent about half of their time on children's services (55 percent) and 22 percent of their time on young adult services (Table 2). In those libraries that had specialists, the children's specialist was available an average of 36 hours per week, the young adult specialist was available 31 hours, and the youth services specialist was available 37 hours. Since the average library was open 39 hours per week, these specialists were available most of the time that the library was open.

Of the estimated 58.500 public service librarians in public libraries in spring 1994, an estimated 9,300 were children's specialists, 2,050 were young adult specialists, and 6,200 youth services specialists (Table 3). Although youth (children and young adults) constitute 60 percent of public library patrons, librarians specializing in services to youth makeup only 30 percent of the public service librarian population, a ratio of one youth services specialist to every 618 youths.

Comparisons with Earlier Surveys

The demographics of public libraries have not changed greatly over the last 5 years. Average patronage per week, number of librarians per library, and number of hours open per week are similar, if not identical, to the number reported in the two FRSS surveys conducted in the late 1980s (Table 4). There appeared to be very little change in either the number of children and young adult patrons or the percentage of libraries having a children's specialist or a young adult specialist. It is important to note that the earlier surveys defined the age ranges for these groups, whereas the current surveys did not.

2 Librarians were defined as those who provide service directly to the public. Respondents were instructed to count all paid staff who work as librarians, regardless of classification. But to exclude volunteers and support staff such as clerical workers, book shelvers, or desk attendants. Respondents were also asked to count persons, rather than full-time equivalents.