January 24, 2013

Americans Say Libraries Are Important, But Don’t Want To Visit

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has conducted and compiled yet another survey, this time focusing on libraries; specifically how patrons use the library, how they’d like to use the library in the future, and just how many people are even going to these libraries when things like the Internet and e-books are so readily available.

Just as you may expect, this survey acts as solid proof that Americans, when asked, have no real idea what they want. For example, of the more than 2,200 American adults surveyed, (aged 16 and over) 80% claimed it was “very important” to borrow a real, paper book, but another 69% also said they’d like to see more e-books in their local library.

Overall, this survey finds a reliance on an older venue for newer technology, as 77% said free access to the Internet at their local library is also “very important.” These Americans also claimed they’d be more likely to take advantage of their local libraries if they could use online tools to conduct research or even speak to a librarian or use an app to access material found in the library. Another 33% claimed they wouldn’t mind visiting the library if there were “Redbox-style” lending kiosks parked out front. The willingness to use these services— the online research tools, apps and lending kiosks— seem to imply that these Americans would be fine using the library more if it meant they didn’t have to actually step foot into the building.

Some of those surveyed did say they’d like to see more technology utilized inside the physical location of the library. For instance, 35% of those surveyed said they’d be “very likely” to use a GPS-navigation app to find their way to the material they’re looking for. Librarians are currently available to locate this material and ask any other questions patrons may have.

Another 35% said they’d visit the library if there was a “petting zoo” area for new technology, a sort of try before you buy program.

Though the American public seems to appreciate ways to use the library without actually going to the library, they were quite vocal about the importance of the library and the ways they believe the library should be involved in their community.

For instance, a sweeping 85% of those surveyed said libraries should work more closely with local schools. Another 82% said the libraries should offer free literacy programs to help young children learn to read. A majority of those Americans surveyed also though the library should “definitely” offer more comfortable locations for reading and working while offering a broader selection of e-books.

Pew also interviewed some library staff members as a part of this survey. According to these staffers, the libraries that currently offer literacy programs, comfortable reading rooms and more e-books say these programs are quite popular with their patrons.

According to the survey, those library-going Americans probably wouldn’t know if their local library even offered these services.

While 91% claimed their libraries were important to their community, only 22% said they were aware of the services available to them.

Yet, for all the misunderstanding and mixed signals, 53% of those surveyed said they had been to their library in the last 12 months. A smaller 25% claimed they visited the library’s Web site, 13% of which said they did so on a handheld device. The Pew report concludes that 59% of those surveyed had some sort of interaction with the library in the past 12 months.

While local libraries aren’t yet dead, this report seems to suggest that these organizations and the communities they serve could do well to sit down and communicate with one another.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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