Reading OCLC’s Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources (2005), Parts 1 and 2

I’m reading OCLC’s Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources (2005) . I highly recommend reading this! Here are a collection of quotes, numbers, my thoughts, etc. – taken as I’m reading. Hope you find it useful.


“Users are not aware of the electronic resources libraries make freely available.” Wow. Many libraries hide them under the phrase “library databases” – what’s that mean? Some of us try to bring them out a little more, by calling them Magazines, Newspapers, and More” or “Find articles.” But of course, that only works for people who visit your library (in person or digitally).

We need to be meeting our customers in the community, with databases in hand. Visit schools – do an in-service. How about chamber of commerce brown bag style presentations? How about inviting yourself to a business meeting?

Part 1: Libraries and Information Sources–Use, Familiarity and Favorability:

Over 80 % of 14-24 year olds have a library card, but most (73%) visit at least once a year. Re-read that statistic this way: 73% of our future adult patrons visit us about once a year. Yikes.

Double wow – most customers use email, search engines, and IM. But what do libraries provide? Access to all these (although I have been to libraries that restrict both email and IM). But how about training? Probably search engine training, possibly training in setting up an email account – but certainly no IM training.

Triple wow – “In the 12 years that search engines have been in existence, they have achieved a familiarity rating that is slightly higher than that of physical libraries and considerably higher than that of online libraries.” But – libraries have been around for centuries, for pete’s sake! Tell me – who’s marketing correctly, and who’s providing a service that people want?

A quote from an individual – “I despise searching the library for books and other sources. It takes a long time and rarely can you find sources needed. This difficult process is the first thing I think of when I think of using the library” (from an 18 year old). Ouch. OK – to be fair, there are good quotes, too.

Part 2: Using the Library–In Person and Online:

“Respondents feel that the local bookstore is more a suitable source of current materials than their library.” I’ve seen a small flurry of staff emails today working on that very problem. Bookstores know in advance that certain books will probably be hot, when new movies are out, etc. We, as “Information Specialists,” SHOULD be able to find and use that same information. Why aren’t we?

Again, “Awareness of electronic databases and electronic materials at the library is low. Awareness of library Web sites and online library catalogs is high.” We’re obviously doing a good job of leading customers to our library catalog, but not to our databases.

“Most respondents do not seek assistance when using library electronic resources.” Which is why we need to get out from behind the service desk – the idea of roving reference is a great one.

Reasons for never using the library website:
1. didn’t know it existed – We need to put the library’s URL EVERYWHERE. But just for starters – that’s passive pushing. Active pushing would be sending actual library staff out of the library, doing presentations in the community. Placing ads in the gaming stores around town. Sponsoring a poetry reading at a coffee shop. Etc. etc. etc.
2. Other Web sites have better information – Wow – that’s very true. Think about it – They’re really comparing one measly website (the library website) with billions of websites (via google). Who’s going to win? But that’s ok. We can’t be everything… but we can be the best at some things, like local information. Our library websites can be the first and the best stop for information about our communities.
3. can’t find the Web site – Refer to my thought on #1 above…

More later…