Library survey shows majority of 800 respondents approve of teen section operation, materials

Republic file photo The interior of the Bartholomew County Library in downtown Columbus.

COLUMBUS, Ind. — A Bartholomew County Public Library survey about its teen department showed that out of almost 800 respondents, most agreed that the department is a “safe, welcoming space” with diverse and relevant materials, though there were some concerns about sexual content in materials there.

Library director Jason Hatton reported the results of a recent teen department survey and discussed plans to move and expand the current space for teens during Monday’s board of trustees meeting.

The survey on the teen collection was released on Jan. 9 and ran through Jan. 27. The library received 793 responses, with about 10% of these individuals stating that they do not have a library card and 19% identifying themselves as teens.

“I was thrilled by the number of responses we had to this survey,” said Hatton. “It was absolutely amazing to me. (There were) 793, which is the biggest survey response I’ve ever seen.”

The survey included three main questions. The first two asked whether respondents agreed with the following statements:

1) The teen area is a safe, welcoming space for all that meets the library’s mission to serve as the community crossroads- connecting people, ideas, information, and experiences to empower everyone on their journey of lifelong learning.

2) The teen collection provides relevant materials that meet our diverse community’s needs.

Respondents had the option to strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree or mark themselves as neutral. They were also able to write in additional thoughts on these subjects.

The third question asked what suggestions the respondent had for the department.

About 80% of survey respondents somewhat agreed or strongly agreed with the first question, and about 11% somewhat disagreed or strongly disagreed. About 10% were neutral.

For the second question, 78% were in the affirmative and 11% disagreed and 11% were neutral.

The survey also asked respondents whether they were 18 years or older. Out of the nearly 800 responses, 151 came from teens, said Hatton. For the first question, teens were 71% in agreement and only about 7% disagreed and 22% were neutral.

On the second question, 76% of teens agreed with the statement and 7% disagreed, with 17% as neutral.

The survey also collected a number of comments, and Hatton said that the library is still trying to figure out how to add these to their analysis.

He shared a few of these remarks in his report. Some praised the space for being inclusive, while others accused the collection of being biased toward the LGBT community or criticized the inclusion of materials with sexual content.

“It is welcoming, but it is not safe,” one individual wrote. “There’s a large amount of material that has a spiritually dark slant. There’s also material that is sexually explicit, encourages sexual activity, and/or encourages teens to question their own sexuality.”

However, another individual said that the teen department must continue to provide spaces and resources that welcome all individuals, “even if the topics are uncomfortable or challenging to some.”

“The great thing about the library is that patrons may CHOOSE what they want to read, so it is essential to offer the broadest collection possible so every person can find books that are mirrors (that include/reflect them) as well as windows into others’ experiences,” this individual wrote.

For the complete story, see Wednesday’s Republic.