Lauren Carter won’t choose between reading a paperback book and an electronic book on her touch-screen device. The 27-year-old wants both.
At the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library, Carter curled up in the young adult reading space with her tablet as rain fell outside. She is inclined to read leisurely using her tablet but just as often browses the library shelves.
“Most people do come to use the Internet. I use it (the library) to conduct research or reading for classes,” said Carter, a former student at Columbus State University now pursuing law school.
Like Carter, others ages 16 to 29 aren’t abandoning printed pages for computers and Internet connections, according to a study published last week by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.
“Younger Americans’ library usage (reflects) a blend of traditional and technological services,” the study says. “Americans under age 30 are just as likely as older adults to visit the library, and once there they borrow print books and browse the shelves at similar rates.”
In the past year, 75 percent of younger Americans read at least one printed book, compared with 64 percent of adults ages 30 and older, the survey found. The younger group was more likely to use the library as a hangout space to study or read.
Kristen Eberhart, the young adult librarian at the Augusta library headquarters, said teens visit the library because they need help finding the right information, whether in a book or on the Web.
“With the Internet, they want direction because there is so much information out there,” she said. “You need someone to direct you to what is true, what is credible information, and what is and is not a good source.”
The Augusta library system has a renewed effort to hold programs that cater to teens. In the library, a teen-only section on the second floor was redesigned with bright-red furniture surrounded by popular teen books.
Once a month, the teen advisory group meets with librarians to plan events such as Friday night scavenger hunts among the bookshelves.
Kingston Gary, 15, a member of the teen advisory group, visits the library several times a week. He spends time playing games on the Internet but can also show how he researches school projects and checks out stacks of books.
“It’s a quiet place where I can concentrate,” Gary said. “You can do homework here. You can look up almost any book you need here.”
Teen-friendly programs aim to instill a lifelong need for libraries and help them use larger libraries in secondary education, Eberhart said.
“They know how to maneuver the Internet,” she said. “What they want from the library is a book and answers to questions.”