Victorian Public Libraries Survey 2012

For many years, our public library service has been part of a consortia that conducts an annual survey. We have been participating for many years, but this year the number of library services more than doubled, so the data we received, both for our library service as well as for all those involved, is even more interesting.

So what is the survey?

The survey aims to “track the resident population’s usage, perceptions and satisfaction with their Public Library services.” Data is gained from a survey of people (14+) living within the boundaries of the library services involved. This involves both users and non-users. This years survey had 3900 participants:

  • 52% visited a Public Library in the previous 12 months
  • 43% had visited a Public Library in the past, but not in the previous 12 months
  • 5% had never visited a Public Library

The survey results have been reported to the public library services involved and their governing bodies, so the data is available somewhere out in the ether. I just thought I would share some of the things that caught my attention.

 Our local community uses the Internet more than I imagined. The survey showed that 89% used it daily for a wide range of reasons, including:

  • 85% for email
  • 55% for Facebook
  • 20& for Internet TV
Add weekly to the mix and you get 97% for the Internet.  My corner of the physical world is more online than I realised.
SMS is also high use, reflecting the trends of Australians and their uptake of technology – 58% used it daily, taking it to 81% for at least weekly.
What was not surprising was the word association of public library being books, although the number is declining, with the figure down to 53% this year, from 57% in 2010.  All the other associations listed, including a particular branch name, borrowing, free, open, information, reading, Internet, study etc were around 10%or less.  Books are still our brand, but so are other things, there are just a wide range of them.  It will be interesting to see one day in the distant future, when printed books are not so prolific, what will our brand be then?  (and yes, I do believe there is a place for public libraries for a long way into the future)
It was very interesting as a the Web Master for our library to discover our users discover about our events from the library first, then the website. What was more interesting, was that it was the same for non-users.  Previously the latter group had said the Internet first.  Makes you wonder what they’re missing, if they think that they need to come to the library to see what’s going on, but don’t……
Unsurprisingly, females 30-54 are our biggest demographic, but then males 30-54 follow. We tend to think of women only as the biggest group, but the guys are coming as well, which I am pleased to read.
81% come by car, which is not surprising, considering our locality and the state of public transport….  
74% come to borrow books, a number which is changing – down 6% on last year. But we have had growth in the bringing someone under 14 years, up 3% to 29%. We have the highest proportion of young people in the state in our area, so its good to see that parents/guardians see the importance of libraries for our young people.
When it comes to non-use, the Internet wins as top reason with 27%, followed by Have at home/no need with 26%, too busy at 12% and buy books at 10%.  Only 7% say they don’t read much.  When asked about the sorts of services the library provides, only 19% know that we lend free DVDs – and considering they are our highest turnover items……  In fact, the only thing that show any great awareness, is that 45% know we provide access to the Internet – potentially because they or someone they know has had cause to come in and use it when their personal access has been unavailable for some reason. That happens more than you might think!
Only 25% knew we had free WiFi, 11% knew we had downloadable music and a grand total of 69% did not know we had any of these things.  Marketing is just so difficult……..
Respondents were queried whether they would use the library if they knew we had particularly facilities: they said yes to
  • Free Internet – 14%
  • Local and family history – 10%
  • DVDs – 10%
  • Story-times or holiday activities for children – 10%
  • and less than 10% for word processing, electronic information, audio-books, LOTE and others
Again the frustration of wanting to yell out – We Do! We Do! Just come in and we’ll show you!
Gratifyingly, regardless of use or non-use, 57% of the respondents said that it was extremely important for the local community to have a public library service in the area.  10 was top of the scale of importance, if you count all the figures down to just 7, the agreement rises to 92% – that is phenomenal support for a facility that not everyone uses, support that I am extremely grateful for.
The most important things to our users were range and quality of books for adults, staff courtesy and helpfulness, opening hours, lending services and the ease of locating a book/information.
The results I have shared here where those particular to my public library service, but are indicative of the results across all of them, with only minor differences in all areas except transport to the library.
User satisfaction with our library service as well as particular aspects of it were also high, but there are always lessons to be learned and so we now go away to do what we can with what has been discovered.
Is there anything here that surprises you about public library users/non-users?