Monday, May 16, 2016

Insights into the Reading Habits of New Adults

As an academic librarian, I get a different kind of patron than when I worked in an public library. First, I don't get many requests for children's books. This makes me a tiny bit sad because I think there are some excellent children's books that deserve to be explored in academics. Still, I understand that when faculty assign a book or young adults choose a book for class, their first inclination isn't to turn to children's literature. I know I was like that before I took a children's literature class later in college.

It wasn't until I took that class that I realized how much I appreciated and liked reading for children. I was always someone who read up. Even in high school, I read adult books. But then, I realized how well written children books are in comparison to the adult books I'd read. I was struck by how much more entertaining and fun the books were. I was hooked.


So, a part of me wishes more students took children's literature classes in college. If only to remind them there is more to life than adult fiction and non-fiction.

Anyway, after working at a community college for three years, here is what I've noticed about the reading habits of my college-aged patrons.

First, of all the book displays I've ever done for the community college, the ones that have the greatest success are... drum roll, please:

Graphic Novels!


That's right! These things get checked out and read in the library all the time. Almost every day, I see at least one person sitting next to our small graphic novel section, reading whatever strikes their fancy.

When I first arrived at my current position, we had about 60 graphic novels that were spread out all over the library. After talking to my boss, I convinced him to let me collect graphic novels for the library. Since then we've added over 100 books to the collection. This is primarily thanks to a grant from the Meemic Foundation, which allowed us to add over 40 books to the collection. If you work in education, definitely look into their grant program!

These additional books allowed us to give graphic novels there own section in the library and make students aware that we had them. Of all the books I collect, these are the ones most likely to get checked out and not just sit on the shelves.

Secondly, when I get asked for book recommendations (which is very rare at my college), the patrons are almost always young women who are looking for a particular genre (romance, mystery, etc.). This type of request isn't as easy to do in a community college as it is in a public library. Why? Because academic libraries are not laid out with browsing fiction in mind. There are no "historical fiction" or "mystery" or "romance" areas. There is only literature in general. So trying to find certain types of fiction can prove a bit more difficult.


This is one of my pet peeves about library of congress classification, but I doubt it will change any time soon.

Lastly, whenever I do a student recommended book list, it is always a mixture of classics, best-sellers, and the Bible (which might surprise some people, but it is one of the top choices every time I do the survey). We almost always have Harry Potter and The Hunger Games recommended by our students. In addition, we have titles like Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, and The Hobbit.

Anyway, these are just a few insights I've gained into the reading habits of my community college new adults. Maybe you'll find them helpful. I know I do as I consider not only how to collect books for community college students, but also consider how to portray them in stories. After all, knowing what new adults read can only help us as writers when we try to portray them on the page.