How Has Your Library Use Changed as You Grew Older?

How Has Your Library Use Changed

A much-cited 2017 Pew Research Center survey loudly proclaims, “Millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries.” Over the years, I have seen various individuals and outlets enthusiastically point out how younger generations find the public library useful–the library is not obsolete, after all! However, while the study itself posits some ideas for why Millenials in particular said they were more likely to visit the library–including updated offerings such as computers, meeting spaces, and technology–I have a different theory. Millenials visit the library more often because they have young children. And, indeed, the survey also finds that parents of minors are also more likely to use the library than others.

My sense that Millenials in particular are attracted to the library because of their children comes largely from my anecdotal experience. Many individuals seem to say things like, “I used to love going to the library as a kid.” Or, “My parents would bring me to the library every week.” These same people, though they have fond memories of the library, are not all likely to be current library users, however. They went to the library when someone brought them–perhaps because their parents thought reading was good for them, or maybe because they had a school assignment to complete–but they somehow fell out of the habit as they aged. Maybe they became busier, or had no transportation, or stopped reading as much. For whatever reason, the library is but a distant golden memory.

My own experience is that, as I aged, my parents were less likely to be willing to give me a ride to the library. Eventually, I started walking, biking, or taking the bus, but the reality is that these means of transportation take much longer than simply driving. And because the library was less accessible to me, I was less willing to go often, because that meant I would then have to go back in order to return the materials. I would also take out fewer items, because I had to carry whatever I checked out back home for several miles.

During one memorable visit, after I had walked all the way to the library, only to realize that I didn’t have my card on me, I told the librarian to simply return the book I had on hold. I wouldn’t be back, because I wouldn’t have time to walk there two more times in the upcoming days–once more to get the book, and once more to return it. My lack of transportation truly prevented me from using the library. (And, yes, I did offer other forms of identification, but the librarian was grumpy and refused to look me up in the system.)

Eventually, getting to the library became somewhat easier for me, and I started using it more regularly. There was, however, definitely a time period when library usage became difficult for me, and I could see how such difficulty might be the moment that a person stopped using the library altogether, perhaps even causing them to forget about it as the years passed. That difficulty might be a lack of parental transportation. Or a move to college, where students don’t realize that they can apply for a library card in their new location. Or just a stressful time in one’s life where reading and the library just aren’t on a person’s mind as much.

So that raises the question: Have you found your own library use changing as you grew older? Did you ever stop visiting the library for a time period? Or perhaps altogether? How do you use the library now versus when you were younger?

19 thoughts on “How Has Your Library Use Changed as You Grew Older?

  1. kat says:

    My mom used to take me a lot, but she always dreamed of having her own personal library, so we usually went to bookstores and accumulated far too many books. I do have many fond memories of checking out my favorite books, and am anxious to take my kids back to the library once I feel it’s safer for them. For now, I love that libraries offer ebooks now that I’m homeschooling my preschooler and we read books every day. It’s been amazing to have so many different books at my fingertips, but I also really want to take them back and let them explore to find the books they love just like I did.

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  2. infinitepagesbookreviews says:

    I am considered a “millennial” at 30, despite the fact, older people use it to mean teenagers so often. When I was younger my mother and grandmother both loved reading to me. I could read on my own at about 3, which I proved by reading a menu to my mom and her friend at a restaurant I had never been to in my life until then. I was an only child so my mother was pretty used to this like “oh, this is normal” and her friend ran a daycare and promptly informed her it was not, in fact, a normal occurrence for a toddler to read an adult menu with descriptions so clearly. Oops.

    They were always there with a ride to the library for books. And then back again a few days later for more, and a few days later for more, and back a few…… As I get older, I go to the library a bit less, but not for the reason many think. See, now all that gas back and forth is on me to pay for. Plus I have moved from a very large city to a very small tiny town. The library doesn’t really offer much out here where I am like it used to back in a larger city.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I definitely understand not wanting to spend gas money. Especially now, with the price of everything rising! And I’ve felt the disappointments of a smaller library, as well. I get a lot of stuff through ILL now. Though the pandemic has slowed everything down, including book deliveries!

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  3. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    Nobody took me to library in my childhood. Reading novels was not something parents or even teachers encouraged and it’s not just me but most people of my age has it in common here in my country. We have only one public library in whole city. you can read there for free but to take books home you need to pay for lifetime membership card and that is same even now. I don’t think it has changed much. There are some popular books coming but I still can’t see new titles and there isn’t even ‘put on hold’ system.

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  4. TheFantasticalWorldOfReading says:

    I’ve basically stopped using the library, just because they pretty much only offer books in my native language and only a few in English (just the really popular ones that I’ve read ages ago). I no longer read in Dutch as it has come to feel very unnatural for me. I am living in the smaller of two Dutch speaking countries and as we have a lower market share, all books are more marketed towards the other country using more of their dialect and way of writing. Since that is no the way I personally speak, it feels very forced to me. I’ve been reading books in English since I was about 13 and have never really looked back. Since I don’t have as much experience with different word usage/dialects in English (like US vs UK) it doesn’t bother me (or I don’t notice it) when they are used. I also like that there is a bigger assortment available in English.

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  5. Charvi says:

    Oh I totally agree, I used to visit the library very frequently but then I got busy with my studies plus realised that my library didn’t have a lot of the books I wanted. Even now I tried to get back into the habit of going to the library but the pandemic has turned everything upside down and last I heard the library was closed :/

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    • Krysta says:

      I can definitely see that! Busy schedules make it harder both to get to the library and to read. And the library closures have been disappointing, as well. I understand the need to keep the community safe, and I support libraries closing if that needs to happy. But. The library closures also made me realize just how much I lean on my library. I can’t wait for the full reopenings!

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  6. mphtheatregirl says:

    As a kid, I actually went to the library to check out a kid.

    Now, my library use is not at the actual library. But instead checking them out through Libby to read through my Kindle

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  7. Ari Augustine says:

    When I was younger, I lived with my grandparents and we never went to the library. The closest branch was over an hour away and, to be honest, my family isn’t one that enjoys reading. We also couldn’t afford books. I was lucky, however, that my elementary school had a library. I don’t recall taking books home with me, though. I was always afraid the cigarette smoke would ruin them or they would somehow get damaged. So I read while at school. It wasn’t until much later, when I entered foster care, that I started getting more into reading and collecting books. I had several foster parents who lived near libraries, my caseworker bought me books during the holidays, and several other advocates in my life made sure I could get to the library. I think for me, given my unusual upbringing in the system, libraries really became a resource and tool for moving forward. They weren’t just places to get books; they had the internet, phones, a place to stay warm/dry/safe, and fostered much of my love of learning. They essentially opened the world up to me and I was lucky to have had that exposure, even if it was a little later in my childhood.

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    • Krysta says:

      Oh, yes, I relied a lot on the school library since I got to go there much more often than the public library! If I recall, however, we were only allowed to check out one book at a time. I can only assume that at the time people were more concerned about kids losing books than about actually giving kids access to books?

      I’m glad the public library also became a great resource for you! I use the library all the time. The pandemic closures really showed me just how much I rely on the library.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Nish says:

    I think my library use is pretty much the same as it has always been. I have never been a big buyer of books – I prefer to borrow and return.

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  9. danielle pitter says:

    I’ll be one of those people to say I used to love going to the library as a kid lmao!! But it’s true, most weekends, my dad and I would drive up to my local library and either read or he’d help me with my homework. As I got older, however, and he’d moved away to NY to GA to FL, I slowly started losing touch with my library because one of my main transportation sources was gone. I had my mom take me sometimes too, but she had to work, and I had school, so I found it harder to borrow from the library. Now as I’m 28, I’ve kind of crossed over to the opposite — working for a library! It was a huge learning curve to go from someone who was used to borrowing books to helping people borrow them, and other information.

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    • Krysta says:

      I used to love going to the library as a kid, too, lol! I still do! 😀 It’s cool that you get to work in a library now. I’m sure it’s very tempting to check out all the books!

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  10. ashley says:

    Last year, I had to stop volunteering at the local library I had been volunteering at since 2017 because the Pandemic hit and I wasn’t essential personnel. I still visited when I could but it was in a different town. During the Pandemic, I used Libby, Hoopla, and when the library in my town opened up for “Take-Out” service and appointment-only browsing, I went back to going. I still utilized Libby and Hoopla and go to the actual library when I can now that I’m working full-time.

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    • Krysta says:

      Library closures have been hard! I understand the need for them, but I rely on the library a lot. I hope everything can reopen safely again soon!

      Like

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