The Impact of the Baby Boomers on Public Libraries: Myth and Reality

By Kahlert, Maureen | Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services, March 2000 | Go to article overview

The Impact of the Baby Boomers on Public Libraries: Myth and Reality


Kahlert, Maureen, Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services


A statistical and demographic profile of baby boomers at the local, state and national levels in Australia is provided, with specific reference to a survey within the Shire of Swan, Western Australia. The impact of this generation on public libraries is analysed. Technology will be one force leading to a need to provide greater home delivery of resources. Edited version of a paper given at the Alia national public libraries conference Perth WA 14-17 November 1999

Along with other nations, Australia is experiencing one of the greatest demographic movements and cultural shifts in history because of the baby boomer generation.

This generation has long commanded the attention of demographers, politicians, marketers and social scientists. It has had a significant impact on the national psyche, politics and the social fabric of all nations. It transformed and literally disrupted the social norms of established society.

In numbers it is vast. However, sheer numbers is not entirely the issue.

Objectives

Is it a reality or a myth that this generation will impact on public libraries? This is the question addressed in this paper which has five main objectives. To

* provide a statistical and demographic profile of the baby boomers at the local, state and national levels within Australia

* examine the term `generation'

* provide characteristics of the baby boomer generation

* present comparative results and outcomes of a survey within the Shire of Swan Public Library Service in Western Australia where the baby boomers were statistically targeted

* address the issue of mythical or real impact of this generation on public libraries

The paper forms part of preliminary research conducted for a doctorate on the baby boomers and public libraries.

The survey

Users of the Shire of Swan Public Library Service were the basis of the survey sample for this research and the results of an initial pilot project/survey of the baby boomers have partially contributed to the content of this paper. The survey, commissioned by the Shire of Swan Public Library Service, was conducted through the Australian Management and Development Research Centre Unit of Edith Cowan University with input from staff of the library service.[1]

Demographic analysis--baby boomer statistical profile

This analysis has involved an examination and assessment of expanded thematic profiles by the Australian Bureau of Statistics of the boomers in Australia, Western Australia and the Shire of Swan. All statistics have been based on the 1996 census and the baby boomer period has been determined from from 1946-1961.

Table 1 highlights some comparative demographic details about the baby boomers in Australia, Western Australia and the Shire of Swan.

Table 1 Demographic analysis

                                 Australia    Western      Shire of
                                              Australia    Swan

                                      NUMBER OF BABY BOOMERS

Total number of baby boomers     4,233,310    418,356      16,235
Number of baby boomers %         23.65%       24.23%       24%

                                          PLACE OF BIRTH

Australian born                  67%          59%          54%
Overseas born                    33%          41%          46%

                                    PROFICIENCY IN ENGLISH

Speaks only English              82%          86%          81%
Speaks another language &
 English well/very well          13%          10%          14%
Speaks another language &
 English not at all well         2.5%         1.5%         2.5%

                                           EMPLOYMENT

In labour force                  78%          79%          78%
Employed                         73%          75%          72%
Unemployed                       11%          9%           10%
Not in labour force              18%          18%          20. … 

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