Youth (15 to 24) are Underrepresented in Hamilton Library Circulation Statistics. Why?

By Joey Coleman // @JoeyColeman
Published: Mar 12 2017 (3 months ago) // Last Updated: Mar 17 2017 (2 months ago)

Update: my follow-up opinion piece on ThePublicRecord.ca

A story I'm working, below is my rough notes and thoughts on the story. I emailed library managers on this, and will develop this into a full story.

Branch usage statistics and demographics are included in this month's reports to the Hamilton Library Board.

The statistics show youth ages 15 to 24 are not borrowing physical items from the Hamilton Public Library anywhere near to the proportion of the population they represent.

This is worth looking into, to find out why and if that why is something we should be concerned about? Because this statistic is only physical circulation, we have to first determine what meaning we can attribute to it.

Physical circulation numbers are dropping across the public library system. This raises the question of if youth are just decreasing their use of physical items more than other demographics - more specifically, the younger a person is, the less likely they are to take out items.

However, the circulation statistics for ages 25 to 34 nearly mirrors their percentage of the branch catchment area demographics, and the statistics for under age 14 are similarly reflective of demographics.

Youth circulation is uniquely lower than any other demographic, and the uniqueness is not bleeding over into their neighbouring demographic segments.

Circulation Demographics Youth Hamilton Public Library Saltfleet Central Sherwood Red Hill Kenilworth

Take, as an example, the Saltfleet Branch, which despite being located in the same structure as Cardinal Newman Secondary School, only sees 5% of its circulation from youth, despite youth being 11% of the population in its catchment area. I'd expect if any branch would enjoy higher than average youth borrowing, this be the one. With over 1500 youth in the attached building, the barriers to access are lower than any other branch.

Three other branches close to high schools show similar statistics (I'm excluding Westdale due to unrepresentative nature of the McMaster student population)

There's only one branch that attracts youth borrowing proportional to the surrounding neighbourhood - the Kenilworth Branch.

So, what's happening? and why is Kenilworth unique among branches?

This is something I hope to find out in the coming days.

You can read this report starting on page 24 of the Library Board Agenda.

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