Library usage survey

OK, a little plea for assistance this morning. I don’t often drag the day-job onto VCTB, but I want to do some research that only a forum of this type will allow me. Please spare a few minutes to leave your thoughts, no matter how brief and critical they may be.

So, I work in a library. UK public libraries, if you follow the news about them (which I expect you probably don’t), are not in a great place right now – borrowing is falling, buildings (and in some cases entire regional services) are being shut down, and the level of rhetoric and bluster from politicians and overpaid consultants seems to be in inverse proportionality to the amount of things actually being done to change the situation.

Over the last week we’ve been doing a survey of library users – I’ll leave my thoughts on the methodology employed to the side, as I’m not a sociologist (or indeed a ‘proper’ librarian). The survey is designed to uncover people’s ‘satisfaction levels’ with the service we provide. Which is all well and good, but it strikes me as intrinsically limited in that it only covers people who actually come into the building.

I assume that most regular visitors to VCTB are regular readers of books, of whatever type. What I want to find out is what people who are passionate about books (to the extent that they read websites about books) think of the modern library service, as they have experienced it. So I’d like to ask you all a few questions:

  • Do you use your local library, or any national libraries (eg British Library)?
  • If you do use libraries, how often and what for? What do you feel would make your local library even better than it already is, as far as fulfilling your own personal needs is concerned?
  • If you don’t use libraries, why not? (Don’t be afraid to be seriously critical here, I want to know the truth – do the buildings suck, are the staff rubbish, do they never have what you want, do you prefer to buy your own books?)
  • What do you feel libraries represent? Or to put it another way: what is the prime function of a library, in your opinion?
  • What would you like to see change in the way library services are provided for you?

Don’t feel you have to answer all of the questions, and if you have something else to say about libraries that isn’t covered by them, just pitch on in. If you could give me some idea of how much you read from week to week, that would be useful too. If you don’t want to comment for all the world to see, please feel free to drop me an email at info[squiggly-symbol]velcro-city.co.uk.

If you have a blog of your own, please ask your readers to pop by and comment too – I’m thinking from a UK perspective, but international information would be useful too, so feel free to pitch in from any country at all. Negative critical comments are more than welcome – that is, in fact, exactly what I’m after.

Thanks for your time!

9 thoughts on “Library usage survey”

  1. Do you use your local library, or any national libraries (eg British Library)?

    Used to use local libraries quite a lot, seldom visit them these days. Work in a nationally-renowned research library (not the BL, though I occasionally use it)

    If you do use libraries, how often and what for? What do you feel would make your local library even better than it already is, as far as fulfilling your own personal needs is concerned?

    Used to visit at least one local library weekly, now much more seldom. What would make my local libraries better would be if they had not sold off vast amounts of material over the past decades. What I really want from a library is access to the kinds of books that one isn’t going to find on the shelves at Waterstones or Ottokars, i.e. the works of good but no longer fashionable authors, items no longer in print – that sort of thing. I occasionally visit local public libraries in search of recently-published books that I want to read but don’t really want to buy, not that they reliably have these.
    I also use a number of research libraries.

    If you don

  2. I’m a big reader, I usually read a couple books a week, both fiction and non-fiction. I just finished an MA in history at SOAS. I made a lot of use of their library, and am going to purchase a alumni membership there as it seems to be the only place I can find many of the books I want to read.

    Do you use your local library, or any national libraries (eg British Library)?
    I used my local library once, it seemed to have a few books on London history that were interesting, but nothing beyond that that I wanted to read. I am a member of the British Library and work at the National Art Library

    If you do use libraries, how often and what for? What do you feel would make your local library even better than it already is, as far as fulfilling your own personal needs is concerned?
    I use the SOAS library on a weekly basis for academic research and personal enjoyment. The local library (in this case Stratford) doesn’t have any books that would help me with my work, and as its a rather specalised area I’m not really surprised.

    If you don

  3. This is from the Dutch perspective…

    * Do you use your local library, or any national libraries (eg British Library)?

    I used to, rather heavily. Hardly at all anymore.

    * If you do use libraries, how often and what for? What do you feel would make your local library even better than it already is, as far as fulfilling your own personal needs is concerned?

    I used to like libraries for books that were good quality, but out of print or difficult to find. It seems as though they have less and less of that material.

    * If you don

  4. Do you use your local library, or any national libraries (eg British Library)?

    I use my local library. It’s actually one near work rather than home, for my own convenience. I don’t have a card with an academic library, although I’m entitled to one at my old university. I occasionally use the shop and cafe at the BL if that counts!

    If you do use libraries, how often and what for? What do you feel would make your local library even better than it already is, as far as fulfilling your own personal needs is concerned?

    I go every couple of weeks and get most of my fiction there. It would be better if there were more books! I also find the non-fiction shelves quite hard to navigate and browse, although I’m not sure what the solution is. The DVD section is not huge but lies between the entrance and the bookshelves, which is slightly off-putting.

    What do you feel libraries represent? Or to put it another way: what is the prime function of a library, in your opinion?

    I can’t get this paragraph right, but approximately: free information. Most importantly this means equal access regardless of income. It also allows risk-taking and self-education. Libraries also provide a space to read, although I personally am not in need of one, and how wonderful is that? A warm, dry, accessible place where anyone can sit and read all day if they want to.

    What would you like to see change in the way library services are provided for you?

    It’s difficult, because I simultaneously want more branches and more books per branch. It would be enough to be reassured that the current standard was going to be maintained.

    Good luck with your survey.

  5. Do you use your local library, or any national libraries (eg British Library)?

    I use my very local library (five minutes walk, open less than 16h/week) and other local libraries when mine is closed. I am not currently anywhere near a) a university library catering to my subjects or b) a national library.

    If you do use libraries, how often and what for? What do you feel would make your local library even better than it already is, as far as fulfilling your own personal needs is concerned?

    Currently I am using libraries three times a week, mostly for internet access.
    – reading fodder: I’ve made an effort to pick random books off the shelves and read them, whatever the topic or genre (I’m a writer); I use libraries to feed my book-a-day habit. What would make it better? More quality books! Yes, it’s necessary (and nice) to have the latest blockbusters available to all, but I want to be able to read good books at any given point in time.
    What would also make it better is a catalogue that works – allowing proper keyword searches, allowing to save searches (users have log ins) and that occasionally shows the books that are available _as_ present.
    (There are five books by Dick Francis in the whole system, and the computer is showing an unexpected outbreak of taste – allegedly, there is not a single book by Dan Brown. Which I know to be a blatant lie.)

    – research: Dream on. I’ve managed to find the occasional interesting gem, but most of my initial research is done in my own library, and after that, I hit research institutions, as the public library has almost nothing on _any_ subject I am interested in, or at least nothing written later than 1970. The catalogue is so abysmal that it is not possible to do even high-school level research.

    Several of the seriously interesting books have found their way home with me – for small sums of money. Every time I buy such a book I am torn between glee (shiny! books!) and sadness that no other use of the library will be able to read those wonderful stories or research that particular field.

    – Internet access: My local library has three computers, one of which doesn’t work very well. The other libraries have more adequate provision, _but_ they log users out after 30 minutes (how much research, CV writing, or job-searching can you do in that time?
    And all library computers are connected to a net nanny system which disallows flickr and other image sites (as ‘personal storage’), anything on blogspot such as Writer Beware (for ‘adult content’)and generally makes internet research a royal pain in the backside because you’re blocked from everything and anything. No pictures, no access to any site that might have used a rude word six months ago, or anything that remotely smells of iffyness. Ok, I can understand that the libraries want to discourage pornsurfers, but if a kid wants to do homework (some do) or an adult wants to read an informative blog, they should not be blocked outright.

    If you don

  6. * Do you use your local library, or any national libraries (eg British Library)?

    I use the local library system in Lancashire, and the library at my university. I use inter-library loan a lot from my uni.

    * If you do use libraries, how often and what for? What do you feel would make your local library even better than it already is, as far as fulfilling your own personal needs is concerned?

    I use the university library a lot to go and work there, and use the computers when mine’s being fixed. There’s a quiet room which is usually good for working, but I get really irritated by the noise in the rest of the place.

    My local library I use a few times every month. I use the systems quite a lot to order in books from other libraries in the county, which costs 60p, usually older books that are in reserve stock, like older EF Benson. I read a lot of children’s / YA books, and I get things like the Mediator series out that I want to read but don’t want to keep. I actually like the computers in the library, as they have good access and I can usually get a computer really easily.

    * If you don

  7. * Do you use your local library, or any national libraries (eg British Library)?

    I work in Uk public libraries and I do use them from time to time. Although I have always read, I did not use libraries btween the ages of about 8 until I began working in library services.

    * If you do use libraries, how often and what for? What do you feel would make your local library even better than it already is, as far as fulfilling your own personal needs is concerned?

    I use libraries to borrow books and DVDs some for myself, more for my young children. I use a library maybe once a month, I buy from bookshops or online every week.
    My libraries need more books and books in better condition. I will not borrow books with stains or yellowed pages for my children. I need better facilities in the library, better standards of building maintenance, somewhere comfortable to sit and read, somewhere for my children to sit and keep themselves occupied while I browse.

    * If you don

  8. As a professional librarian for 30+ years, I couldn’t resist this . . .
    *Do you use your local library, or any national libraries (eg British Library)?

    I haven’t used my local library for anything other than getting the latest bus timetable for years. I work in the best library in the UK for sf 🙂 and I use it constantly; I use the university library regularly for other things and I occasionally use the British Library if I’m in London and have time.

    * If you do use libraries, how often and what for? What do you feel would make your local library even better than it already is, as far as fulfilling your own personal needs is concerned?

    I use libraries constantly, as I say: just not the local one.

    * If you don

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