Adulthood: A Process, Not an Event

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From local practices to national policies, there is growing acknowledgement that becoming an adult is a process, not just a date on a calendar. This concept is rooted in research that identifies a unique stage of physiological and social development between the ages of 18 and 25, known as Emerging Adulthood.1 It also reflects the challenges of a post-recession reality in which young adults often delay leaving their parents’ homes and health insurance policies.

Libraries have responded to the concept of Emerging Adulthood in two major ways. First is the growth of educational programming that builds individual capacity, commonly referred to as “adulting.” A necessary step towards growing up is learning how to survive independently and, with a plethora of resources and deep connections to the community, libraries are well positioned to support that step.

Forsyth County Public Library in Georgia appreciates that full independence means more than simply knowing how to do laundry. Their Adulting 101 workshops cover a variety of topics, from understanding health insurance to home buying advice. The monthly sessions feature local business and community experts who shed light on the mysteries of everyday adult life. As it turns out, you don’t need to be an emerging adult to benefit from the workshops—they’ve been a hit with patrons of all ages!

Another phenomenon in Emerging Adulthood is the delay in choices around marriage, children and career. For reasons cultural, social and economic, the rush towards “settling down” has slowed. The need for social engagement, however, has not; and the second way libraries respond to Emerging Adulthood is by offering innovative programs to satisfy that demand for social interaction.

Mid-Columbia Libraries in Washington has introduced two such programs. First is Li-Brewery Trivia Night, offered twice monthly in collaboration with a local brewpub. Teams compete for prizes during trivia rounds with questions based on a selection of books—all available through the library, of course! Another program that has been offered in cooperation with a different brewpub is MCL BARchitects, a team Lego-building competition. BARchitects puts a new spin on the Maker Movement, with humor, social engagement, and low stakes competition.

How is your library innovating to serve emerging adults?  Let us know! Email: futureoflibraries@ala.org.

Learn more about how libraries are innovating in response to societal trends on the Libraries Transform website.

Visit ALA's Center for the Future of Libraries for an indepth view into the impact of societal trends on libraries.

Center for the Future of Libraries

The Center for the Future of Libraries works to identify trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve; promote futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians and library professionals shape their future; and build connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues. Learn more at www.ala.org/libraryofthefuture.

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