If you didn’t know, Pew Internet released a new survey about libraries today. It’s called Library Services in the Digital Age (there are lots of things in there I won’t be addressing but that are also worth noting), and I’ve seen some emphasis this part:
In general, Americans feel somewhat well-informed about the various services offered by their local libraries. While about one in five (22%) feel they are aware of “all or most” of the services and programs their public library offers, a plurality (46%) feel they just know of “some” of what their library offers. Another 20% say they know “not much” about services offered by their library, and 11% say they know “nothing at all” about what is available at their library.
It goes on to relate patrons’ stories about how they hear (or don’t hear) about programs, sometimes too late to participate.
I will absolutely acknowledge that marketing/advertising is a problem for many libraries (I’ve worked at one such library), so there are definitely shortcomings that can be addressed.
But I’ve also been thinking about how I would answer that question myself, as a patron rather than as a librarian.
The Pew question was this (from page 14):
Now thinking more broadly…overall, how well-informed do you feel you are about the different services and programs your public library offers? Do you feel like you know…
ALL or MOST of the services and programs your library offers
SOME of what it offers
NOT MUCH of what it offers
Nothing at all
Answering this as a patron, I’d have to say I know only some of what my public library offers. Which is to say, I know of those things that are pertinent to my interests and while I know vaguely that there are other services and programs (e.g. storytimes, downloadable things), I don’t pay attention to those because they don’t pertain to me.
So is it really a problem that these patrons don’t know ALL of the things offered by their library, so long as they know about things that would be of interest to them?
To me, the fact that 68% of patrons know some, most, or all of the services and programs offered by their library is awesome! Despite what some are saying (e.g. Sorry, 22% is Not Enough), I don’t think the 22% is something to worry about. I’d worry more about the 31% who know “not much” or “nothing” about what the library offers—it seems to me that’s the number that needs to be worked on most.
A note: since I recently moved, I can honestly say that I don’t yet know all of the services offered by the library where I am now employed, much less about my local public library. Instead, I’m thinking about this in the context of the public library I used in Maryland, where I was a pretty frequent user for almost five years.
Yet when asked whether they would be willing to give up existing resources to make room for these things — to move some books to off-site storage centers to make sense for a device-testing center, for instance — only 20% of survey participants said they were in favor. Thirty-six percent said libraries should “definitely” not move books off-site.
Which sums up the whole problem, really.
During this past semester, I’ve seen our library used as:
-Special event/discussion space
-Student work space
Apart from student work space, all of these uses are new. Yet each seems appropriate, and I hope they call attention to the potential for the library building to be used in novel ways.
Why Support Your Local Library? [infographic]
Google has not killed the library and ebooks won’t do it either. The biggest threat to the public library in American culture is limited hours. In the new budget reality if libraries are forced to dramatically decrease their hours then they will be drastically reduced in their ability to serve their public.[…]
The public library in America will only be irrelevant when it is inaccessible.
Unfortunately, this focus is distracting us from the realization that we don’t need to treat access to commercial content as our primary mission. Yes, we’ve put a lot of effort into it in the past, and we’ve done it well. But it’s time to take a step back. Previously, we had the force of law on our side; now, though, the problem of access to digital content is being solved without us. More important, our insistence on competing with (or even just complementing) Amazon and Apple—not to mention all of the free content available online—is an insistence that we define ourselves by something we are not good at anymore.
Does this mean it’s time to shut our doors and go home? No way. Here’s where user experience (UX) comes into play. Remember, UX is concerned with designing products and services that are easy to use, desirable to use, and genuinely useful.
UX design can help us optimize the services currently in our libraries, but we can do even more. We can use it to design completely new services and innovate. I’m not talking about a shallow buzzword sort of innovation as when a library employs the technology or social media flavor of the month. What I’m talking about is a systematic approach to learning about our communities so that we can find other ways to offer essential support.
I don’t know if this will be of use anyone but me, but I was trying to go over the Computers in Libraries sessions (both those I attended and those I didn’t) to find what I could of the presentation slides/handouts/blog posts and I was getting bogged down in links and files, so I made these lists of links. If anyone knows of stuff that could be on here that I missed, do let me know (use the ‘ask me anything’ link).
Librarianship is an awareness — a hypervigilance to any needs of a community. Everything we see or come in contact with is collected and disseminated to those who seek that information. On another level, though, we also retain that idea, and can share it with someone else. In that way, librarians are libraries, indexes, databases; polymaths. “Jack of all trades; master of none” no longer applies–librarians are constantly educating themselves and mastering the next big thing. Good librarians are interdisciplinary, as challenging as it is to sustain.
…Sleep eluded me that evening as I realized how desperately we, as librarians, are needed in the 21st Century to help the public, our patrons, wade through a sea of misinformation. Each day we aide our patrons as they seek to rebuild their lives and their careers after an economic meltdown that never seems to end, yet in the midst of an economic crisis that has enveloped a culture overloaded with information, we are under attack, forced to prove our relevance in a digital age where the bottom line trumps common sense.
There’s plenty of excellent reasons to stagger the release of a new piece of software on an international scale: Doing so keeps servers from melting into pools of unusable silicon, and preserves the sanity of help desk agents, if only for a little while. That said, if a game’s not available in the states, even though the Italians have had it for a week, you know that someone, somewhere is going to be pirating that bad boy. By giving consumers what they want simultaneously on an international level, developers could strike another reason for illegally downloading an application from the the litany of excuses pirates have been employing for years.
This is also the case for movies and some TV shows.