Parents, children, libraries, and reading

1 May 2013

This report explores the relationship that parents of minor children have with public libraries. In some ways, parents of minor children are similar to other Americans who do not currently have minor children (“other adults” as referred to throughout this report) in how they view and use the library. But there are key differences that will be highlighted and explored in this report.

This report is part of a broader effort by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that is exploring the role libraries play in people’s lives and in their communities. The research is underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This report contains findings from a survey of 2,252 Americans ages 16 and above between October 15 and November 10, 2012. The surveys were administered half on landline phones and half on mobile phones and were conducted in English and Spanish. The margin of error for the full survey is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. The survey includes 584 interviews with parents of children under 18 years of age.  The margin of error for the sample of parents is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

There were several long lists of activities and services in the phone survey. To minimise the burden on those taking the survey, half the respondents were asked about one set of activities and the other half of the respondents were asked about a different set of activities. These findings are representative of the population ages 16 and above, but it is important to note that the margin of error is larger when only a portion of respondents is asked a question.

There are also findings in this report that come from a survey of a non-scientific sample of librarians who volunteered to participate in Pew Internet surveys. Some 2,067 library staff members participated in the online survey between December 17 and December 27, 2012. No statistical results from that canvassing are reported here because it is based on non-probability samples of patrons and librarians intended to provide open-ended comments and other qualitative information.  Librarians’ written answers are highlighted to open-ended questions that illustrate how they are thinking about and implementing new library services.

In addition, librarians and library patrons who participated in focus groups in-person and online that were devoted to discussions about library services and the future of libraries were quoted. One set of in-person focus groups was conducted in Chicago on September 19-20. Other focus groups were conducted in Denver on October 3-4 and in Charlotte, N.C. on December 11-12.

By: Carolyn Miller, Kathryn Zickuhr, Lee Rainie and Kristen Purcell

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