Raise your hand if you didn’t—did not—call the library the “liberry” when you were little. I’m guessing not a lot of hands just went up.
Didn’t just about all of us say “liberry” when we were learning to read? (Well, whaddya expect when a place is named something way too easy for little kids to mispronounce?)
OK. Now, raise your hand if you haven’t—have not—been lately to the library. My guess here is that a large proportion of the hands that went up are attached to people who have traditional jobs and are of a certain age range.
Lately, I’ve become a happy habitue of the public library. (Perhaps because I don’t have a traditional job and I am of an uncertain age range.) I never just return a book and hightail it out of there. I like to linger, explore, flip pages and even photograph covers of books I want to borrow in the future.
What I observe in my bookish rounds is that there’s a lot of baby boomers like me there. Makes sense, right? Boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964. That means boomers born in the first seven or so years of that range now are past the once-official retirement age of 65.
It stands to reason, then, that baby boomers who aren’t “punching a clock” would be the most frequent users of libraries, right?
Not so fast! I was surprised to learn that a fairly fresh survey (taken in fall 2016) found the most likely users of libraries are not baby boomers but of the age group of our children or grandchildren: millennials (ages 18-35 at the time of the survey). The question was worded to specifically include public libraries and to exclude school or campus libraries.
When surveyed by the Pew Research Center, slightly more than half of millennials (53 percent) said they had visited a public library or bookmobile in the previous 12 months. Baby boomers didn’t even come in second! (Oh, the shame.) That position was claimed by Gen Xers (ages 36-51), 45 percent of whom said they had visited the library.
The least frequent users of libraries, according to Pew, are the senior-most generations. Baby boomers (ages 52-70) clocked in at 43 percent, while 36 percent of the silent generation (ages 71-88) reported a library visit in the prior 12 months.
Most of the valuable free programs and services that community libraries like to promote are aimed at the senior generations, so it may come as a surprise that those aren’t the most frequent users of the library (if you go by the Pew survey). Then again, the less frequent usage by that group may help explain why libraries try to engage their interest more aggressively.
Today’s public libraries are more useful and richer in resources than ever. You can collect critical information about senior benefits or taxes, see a play or musical performance for free, learn about local history, join a book club, use computers and internet connections, hold a meeting, play a social game, and much more.
The newest service I’ve discovered is called Kanopy. It’s a streaming service of movies, a la Netflix, and it’s free. If you are registered with Kanopy through a local library, you can watch up to 10 movies a month, and you have up to three days to finish viewing a film.
The unique selection of movies is a carefully curated cross-section of art-house favorites, world cinema, classics, documentaries, hidden gems, short subjects and more. In other words, Kanopy’s movie menu works very hard at not duplicating other streaming services.
Kanopy is just one more reason for people like me to say, “What’s not to love about the library?”
Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-275-6887.