4 September 2009

The 11-18 years old and the libraries in France a survey

By Emmanuel Aziza

Particularly useful to others…

It is difficult – and this is confirmed by the survey– to find nowadays a French youth who has not been at least once in his life in a public library,may it be with his parents or with his school. Besides,both teens and grown-ups have a rather positive opinion of libraries. Their usefulness is fairly mainly agreed upon, even by non-users, who consider readily that public libraries can be useful: for others, for themselves later on, for their coming children…Opinions about libraries, however, do not vary much. Libraries are, on the whole, always perceived as places of books, studying, silence…stereotypes which reoccur during interviews with the users and non users alike. Librarians are still being seen as responsible for keeping the place quiet. Finally, although teenagers are rarely hostile to libraries, they remain mostly seemingly indifferent to them. They “just don’t think about it”, drop out progressively, almost imperceptibly rather than be absolutely opposed to libraries. Th is indifference, combined with a strong ignorance of what public libraries are today, remains the main issue which librarians have to face. Even with the most regular users, the survey shows a comparatively restricted adjustment to libraries, limited, for example, to youth departments. This facilitates neither the different off ers to be spread which could retain young people’s attention, nor the transition from the children’s section to the grown-ups’ one.

For school work or leisure?

As young people grow up, they tend most frequently to attend less and make a different use  of libraries. Schoolboys and girls aged 11-14 use libraries mainly for leisure – as they did when they were children – while for the 17-18 years old surveyed, libraries are perceived chiefly as places offering optimal conditions for work. Looking for the studious calm possibly missing at home, these young adults most frequently do not hold library cards and come to libraries only for school work, going there more casually than before but spending sometimes a few hours on the spot to work either alone or in a group. Different uses and different profiles of users coexist in libraries. Libraries are places of work, encounter and teenager social activity, even if they are still mainly considered as places f illed with books. If the request for room to work in the quiet is strong, the one for more recreational, comfortable and cheerful areas where noise and group conversation would be permitted is just as recurrent. More generally, teenage users ask for a better recognition of their needs requiring, notably but not only, spaces dedicated to them. More information from the field research results, suggestions of interviewed teenagers and a commented bibliography of professional literature, the final report draws ways of optimization. A more in-depth analysis will be published on the Bpi site – www.bpi.fr – end of 2009.

Libraries for Children and Young Adults, Children, France

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