Top 5 YA and Libraries Research in 2015 (But Mostly from Pew Research Center)

Recently, I did a guest blog post for YALSAblog – the official blog of Young Adult Library Services Association. Here what I said in the post, and here’s a link to the original post. Happy New Year!

In the world of research about young adults and libraries, 2015 has been good year. This blog post will offer a recap of the Top 5 (in my opinion) young adult and library related research that you may have caught or may have overlooked throughout the year. Not surprisingly, several of these studies come from the Pew Research Center. If you aren’t familiar with Pew, it’s occasionally checking out the work that they do or signing up for daily or weekly research alerts (like research nerds, like me, do). According to Pew’s (2015) website, the research center is “a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. (¶1). ” They do some really terrific research on all sorts of topics but of interest to us is their work on young adults, the Internet, and libraries. Well, enough about Pew and more about these five studies that I would like to highlight from this past year. Included in my top five are a couple of leading researchers in young adults and libraries like Drs. Denise Agosto, June Abbas, and Marcia Mardis. Enjoy this research roundup!

Agosto, D. E., & Abbas, J. (2015). “Don’t be dumb—that’s the rule I try to live by”: A closer look at older teens’ online privacy and safety attitudes. New Media & Society, 1–19. http://doi.org/10.1177/1461444815606121

Dr. Denise Agosto is a faculty member and researcher in the School of Information at Drexel University who does amazing research on young adults and libraries. Another fun fact: she is the current editor for YALSA’s own Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults (JRLYA). Dr. June Abbas is a faculty member in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Oklahoma who also does fantastic research on libraries, young adults, and technology. In this article, the authors discuss older teens feelings and concerns about online privacy. The research reveals that while young adults are concerned about privacy they also feel the need to offer personal information online to friends. For librarians, this article closes with implications for instructing teens about online security and privacy.

Horrigan, J. B. (2015). Libraries at the crossroads (pp. 1–52). Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/09/15/libraries-at-the-crossroads/

When this research came out, it made quite a splash in the library community. The research reveals that citizens see libraries as critical “community institutions” and are interested in the programming and services libraries provide, but indicated that library visits by Americans are slowly decreasing (p. 3). Included in this research were older young adults who expressed a desire for public libraries to support community education, improve the local economy through assist to local businesses, employers, and job hunters. They also wanted libraries to take a lead role in emerging technologies and help the community learn how to use these gadgets. Although this research wasn’t focused strictly of 12 to 18 year olds, it does highlight the needs and desires of older young adults and emerging adults regarding the library and its services.

Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015. Washington, D.C.: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/

Pew Research Center’s Amanda Lenhart often takes a lead role in reporting on young adults, technology, and social media. Not surprisingly, this report provides an overview of current young adult social media use. It is worth a scan of the summary of findings, which reveals that Facebook is still the most popular social media platform among teens, and 71% of young adults are using more than one social networking site on a regular basis. For librarians, this report may assist in better understanding current social media and online technology use by young adult patrons. It may answer (or at least help answer) lingering questions young adult or youth services librarians have about the technology habits of the population they serve.

Lenhart, A., Smith, A., & Anderson, M. (2015). Teens, technology and romantic relationships (pp. 1–77). Pew Research Center.

Another report headed by Amanda Lenhart may seem a bit out of the necessary reading requirement for librarians, but young adults are a complicated population who uses technology in a range of ways including romance. This report discusses how deeply entrenched the digital world is in the romantic life of a young adult. While this isn’t any different from the impact of social networking apps and sites on adult dating, the findings of Lenhart, Smith, & Anderson, (2015) does suggest several important distinctions between the two populations. Since, along with education and intellectual support, librarians support young adults’ social, emotional, and psychological well-being, this report is a important read for those curious about the internal lives of young adults.

Mardis, M. A. (2015). R&E networks: Pathways to innovation for K-12. An NMC Horizon Project/Internet2 Strategic Brief (pp. 1–20). Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Dr. Marcia Mardis is a faculty member and researcher in the School of Information at Florida State University who researches school libraries, K-12 education, and broadband. New Media Consortium (NMC) is “a community of hundreds of leading universities, colleges, museums, libraries, schools, and research centers.” (p. 1). I would encourage you to check out more of the library related research conducted by NMC. Although this report focused on a K-12 education audience, there are many takeaways for school and public librarians such as emerging technology trends, existing technology infrastructure, and the importance of broadband in schools. Through a gathering of K-12 experts, the connection of K-12 students to one another via high speed Internet is never more apparent. This report may be particularly interesting for school librarians and public librarians who collaborate with school librarians by illustrating the technological changes that are occurring and will occur in K-12 education.

Hopefully, these brief synopses of young adult and library related research encourages you to investigate even more research. By doing do, we can improve the work we do with young adult patrons through the creation of research based practices. Perhaps I missed a study from this year that you thought should have been included. Please let me know! There is so much fantastic research out there concerning young adults, technology, libraries, social media, and more. It is incredibly easy to overlook a terrific study or two.

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