NEW YORK - Young adults are the heaviest users of public libraries despite the ease with which they can access a wealth of information over the Internet from the comforts of their homes, according to a new study.
That's especially true for those who had questions related to health conditions, job training, and government benefits.
Twenty-one percent of Americans 18 to 30 years old who have such questions have turned to public libraries, compared with about 12 percent among the general adult population with those problems to solve.
Education-related tasks - making decisions about schooling, paying for it, and getting job training - are the most common problems drawing people to libraries, according to a joint study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
And people are going to libraries not only for Internet access, but also for library reference books, newspapers, and magazines. "The age of books isn't yet over," said Lee Rainie, Pew's director. The study found that library usage drops gradually as people age - 62 percent among those 18 to 30 compared with 32 percent among those 72 and up, with a sharp decline just as Americans turn 50.
"It was truly surprising in this survey to find the youngest adults are the heaviest library users," Rainie said. "The notion has taken hold in our culture that these wired-up, heavily gadgeted young folks are swimming in a sea of information and don't need to go to places where information is."
Rainie added that young adults are the ones likely to have visited libraries as teens and seen their transformation into electronic information hubs.