This research aimed to give an up-to-date picture of public views on libraries, in order to help leaders and practitioners make decisions about the future development of the service. The findings come from focus groups with a cross-section of user and non-user groups and a quantitative survey with a representative sample of 1,102 adults as well as a literature review of previous relevant studies and national surveys.
Key findings include:
- The public see libraries’ core purpose as being about reading, learning (particularly children’s education) and finding information.
- Some newer services have become well established, for example, computers and children’s activities.
- People value a good customer experience, and are relatively intolerant of poor service.
- The key ingredients of a good experience are: A good range and choice of books, friendly and knowledgeable staff and a pleasant library environment.
- Satisfaction with library staff is high, although it was clear that not all library services are being communicated.
- Users and non-users are concerned about books being “squeezed out” for other services.
- Current users, and some lapsed users, would like the book offer to be better
- In terms of service developments, there was wide support for coffee shops in libraries, longer opening hours and more activities for families.
- There was strong support for the local library, particularly serving older people.
There has been surprisingly little recent research on library audiences – those who currently use library services and those who don’t. Do people value libraries? If so, what is it that they value? What would encourage them to use libraries more? And how can we entice new audiences?
The evidence suggests that, despite the rhetoric about public sector cuts and fiscal tightening, the library service continues to be seen by the public as a force for good, and one that should be provided free at the point of delivery (even amongst those people who do not use the service).