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.