Libraries: Good Value, Lousy Marketing According to Pew Research Study

Results of a recent Pew Research Study are reported in Publishers Weekly.

The singular most important finding in the latest Pew study, Library Services in the Digital Age, is that libraries—in the opinion of most Americans—aren’t just about books. 80% of U.S. residents say that lending books is a “very important” service, but they rate the help they get from reference librarians as equally important. And nearly the same number, 77%, reported that free access to technology and the Internet is also very important. This triumvirate—books, help, and technology—runs through the entire report.

Could the library brand—historically bound to book borrowing—be undergoing a transformation? In the last major study of users, OCLC’s Perception of Libraries, 2010, patrons were asked to associate the first thing that came to mind when they thought of libraries. And for 75% of the respondents, the answer was books. While Pew didn’t play the same association game, it seems that Pew’s users have a more nuanced take on the library’s role.

The Pew study is based on landline and cell phone interviews conducted in English and Spanish, with a nationally representative sample of 2,252 people ages 16 and older. It could be that the study tapped into a younger demographic who make greater use of library technology. Or perhaps the recession, which has forced millions to rediscover libraries, was a catalyst for users to take fuller advantage of what the library offers.

Copy of the results of this latest study here. According to the authors "Patrons embrace new technologies – and would welcome more. But many still want printed books to hold their central place."

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