This summary of the qualitative, focus group research feeds into the report ‘What do the public want from libraries?’. The focus groups concentrated on:
- Why people use libraries?
- What people value in public libraries?
- Reasons for not using libraries
- Awareness of library services
- Views on the value of library services
Issues highlighted in the qualitative research included:
- The challenge in meeting all groups’ needs at once, particularly when libraries offer limited physical space
- The tension around trying to attract new users without alienating existing users
- The importance of the book offer and the strong view that the quality and range of stock needs to be improved
- The importance of the physical space of the library for most users – which suggests that possible alternatives to traditional libraries, such as social networks for book lending, would only partly meet needs and would not fulfil the range of roles that libraries play in people’s lives
Most participants were positive about library services overall. They valued them as public services, and tended to think that it was important that they remained free for all to use. Even those who did not use libraries tended to think they were a “good thing”, if not relevant to them personally. They did not tend to have negative feelings towards libraries generally, although they might criticise certain aspects of the service, such as the quality of the book offer, or the perceived attitudes of staff.