Vol 2 (2022)

Research at the library: young adult outreach in a public library

Sarah McCann
Robert Gordon University
Reflective Professional
Published June 16, 2022
  • Young adult,
  • Outreach,
  • Questionnaire,
  • Information seeking behaviour,
  • Research skills,
  • Public Library
  • ...More


This mixed methods study examines the impact of research-related outreach to young adults as a means of engaging with them and improving their attitudes toward the public library in Ireland. Taking the opportunity offered by the Leaving Certificate History curriculum, a public library gave an online presentation on research skills and library resources to fifth-year history students embarking on their Research Study Report (RSR). Questionnaires were completed before and after the presentation, asking respondents a range of questions on library membership, library use, library resources and their research skills. Teachers were interviewed on the supports available to them and their students through the library. Young adults were found to have a broadly positive attitude toward the library, but to underutilise the library’s resources and to have simplistic approaches to research. The importance of libraries’ relationships with teachers and the effectiveness of targeting schools was evident. The outreach event had positive, if limited, effects on respondents’ attitudes toward the library, notably on how welcoming and how helpful with research the library was perceived to be. Recommendations are made, including targeted communication with schools, a change to the enrolment process for young adults aged 16+, and an education drive aimed at young adults to reacquaint them with the library after COVID-19 restrictions.