Monday, October 3, 2011

Perceptions of Libraries 2010: Context and Community

While it can't be said that it was bright* and early, it WAS early at 8:30 on Monday morning when we met to listen to Carole Myles from OCLC in the Conference Center's Ampitheater to present the report that was presented in 2011. (*Vermont is a beautiful state and even Burlington is lovely in the rain but it can't be called bright this Monday morning.)
"Perceptions of Libraries 2010 explores how the economic environment has affected perceptions and behaviors of our users and potential users. This [compilation of statistics can be] used in advocacy and grant applications, along with observtions about new formats and trends".
The last report of this kind was compiled in 2005 of environmentally-scanned information from 2003-2005. Interestingly, most devices were not as available before 2005, including sites like Facebook. With the advent of the smartphones and all the apps available, information has exploded. Smartphones will outpace PCs in a short time.

If you like statistics, OCLC has the information for you. The full report, by the way, is available at OCLC as a pdf.
From the OCLC site:
This OCLC membership report explores:
  • Technological and economic shifts since 2005
  • Lifestyle changes Americans have made during the recession, including increased use of the library and other online resources
  • How a negative change to employment status impacts use and perceptions of the library
  • Perceptions of libraries and information resources based on life stage
"Americans are very confident in their ability to find the information they are looking for online," Myers states. We find information easily and consider our sources trustworthy.
Harris Interactive surveyed 2229 respondents were included in the report, all US residents online. (At least 3/4 of the US population are online.)

7 out of 10 public libraries report the amazing statistic that they are the only free WiFi access in town.

Most importantly, in this economy, many Americans were impacted. This is our library audience at the moment. They are using the library, especially, for Broadband access and for use of public computers.

Troubling statistics include the results of a survey of respondents who began an information search at the library website. In 2005 it was 3%. It is now 0% or something less than 1%. Library website usage is down overall. So while the recession has pushed people into the libraries to use WiFi or to borrow books, it has not pushed them to use the library website for an information source.

The number one reason for an increase in library use is the 'save money.' The second reason is that families enjoy visiting the library. The newly-unemployed have more time to spend at the library.

Commentary was made about several of the branding statistics, namely that teens' perception of libraries is first of all 'books.' Whether this is good ... or bad, is up to debate!

Overall, the report speaks especially to the differences between the economically-impacted and those who aren't. Economically-impact patrons find the library more important for computer and Internet usage; those not impacted find that the library materials are more important. Families are using libraries because they like to visit them. College students are becoming particularly savvy about finding their own information. Teens aged 14-17 are not using the library website or online databases. Where are they going and how do we reach them? They do feel that we are out of touch and that libraries are outdated. Teens, young adults and GenXs are critical of both academic and public libraries. They want more space, more relevant space, more books of all kinds and increased customer service. Boomers and Seniors are happier with their libraries, 11% and 8% retrospectively (as compared to 5%-6% for the younger generations.)

Themes that run through all demographic sections are more space, updating, improved customer service, better lighting and more of relevant books and materials.

Read the full report, for more information.

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