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Library patrons, and their preferences, are changing. But you already knew that.

What you might not have known is that a national research organization has identified some important points for you to consider as you figure out how to keep your library poised for change as well.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet Project conducted surveys and recently presented their findings. Five key conclusions surfaced from the survey data:

1. Libraries are deeply appreciated, especially for their community impact.

The vast majority of survey respondents said libraries were important to their communities and families. They cited reasons such as the library’s roles in promoting literacy, giving everyone a chance to succeed through free access to materials and resources, and serving as a tech hub for the community. Library computer users not only avail themselves of this service for school or work research; they’re also using email, playing online games, getting health information, researching government services, and searching and applying for jobs.

2. Libraries have a public relations problem.

Most patrons are unaware of all that their libraries offer.  Just think of the increases in resource and program usage, if only they knew!

3. Senior citizens, non-parents, and those without some college education are groups with the greatest potential for increased patronage.

The top contributor to increased library use was visiting with children or grandchildren. The main reason cited for going to the library less often was that the internet is more convenient for getting books and doing research at home.3. Library patrons are diverse, but there are some groups that are quite removed from the library world.

4. Patrons’ “wish lists” for new services are extensive and fairly undifferentiated by group.

People from all groups want access to free books and media, quiet places to read or study, resources for school or work research, programming for teens and children, and the availability of librarian assistance and internet access. But there is noticeably greater enthusiasm for new tech-based services by women, African-Americans, Spanish-speaking patrons, those with minor children, and those in urban areas. Such services include online “ask a librarian” research programs, cell apps to access services or navigate the library, and kiosks around town for library checkouts.

5. Libraries have a mandate to intervene in community life.

People overwhelmingly want libraries to collaborate with schools in offering resources and early literacy programs. Beyond those areas, libraries can attract potential new patrons with customized programs:

  • Skills training for technology non-users
  • After school programs
  • English as a Second Language classes
  • Lifelong learning opportunities or classes leading to credentialing
  • Help for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-profits

What changes have you made or do you plan to make to keep up with changes in library user preferences?

06 Jan 2014

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