Public libraries have a clear opportunity to become central hubs in local communities across the UK, but they must develop citizen engagement strategies that deliver new services, embrace digitalisation and empower library staff, according to new research conducted by Axiell UK.
The research, carried out among more than 2,000 UK adults, shows that although 56% use public libraries, they only make 23 visits per year on average, compared to 57 visits a year when they were children. The primary reason for making these trips aligns with the traditional role of the library – to borrow a book, cited by 65% of visitors.
Yet the research also reveals a clear appetite from consumers for public libraries to offer much more than a place to find or borrow literature. It reveals a number of services that would entice more visits, including social clubs, cited by 64% of adults, cafes (63%), a post office or collections service (61%), the opportunity to meet/listen to authors (55%) and a place to watch short films (53%).
There is also a clear appetite for more digitally-focused services, with 67% interested in adding at least one new digital element in their library experience, such as ICT training, ebook borrowing, digital learning through podcasts, and using social media channels to find out about events and communicate with the community.
The full research findings are published today in a new report, The Library of the Future, which explores how the traditional role of the public library can adapt to meet the social and digital behavioural needs of today’s communities.
The report highlights the challenges facing public libraries, in light of budget cuts, reductions in library staff and the digitisation of content, but reveals a strong indication that the library remains a highly valued institution and one that could have a lasting role in society. A significant 89% of UK adults agree that libraries are an important part of the community and, critically, four out of five believe having a hub for their local area is also important.
Mark Allcock, Products and Services Portfolio Manager at Axiell, comments: “This research is a valuable contribution to the national debate about UK public libraries, post the Sieghart review, and confirms an appetite from consumers for libraries to evolve. Meeting this demand means placing the library right at the heart of the community, creating exceptional experiences and embracing digital services to engage with patrons wherever and whenever they want to.”
Nick Poole, CILIP chief executive, comments: “Public libraries are beacons for knowledge in communities across the country. They are unique, trusted spaces where everyone is welcome. At some point libraries make a positive difference to all lives, all families and all careers.
“What libraries do has never been confined within the walls of the building – they are in our lives and in our communities. Delivered by professional staff and working in partnership libraries are increasingly using new technologies and changes in the way we acquire and share knowledge to provide truly life-changing services that meet our needs today.”
More about Axiell
Axiell serves libraries, schools, archives, museums and authorities with technically advanced and innovative solutions developed in close cooperation with its customers. More than 1000 library organisations with thousands of branches use an Axiell library management system and Axiell Arena, a tool for the virtual library. The systems for archives and museums, are used by over 2600 archives and museums over the world. More than 3000 schools use an Axiell system. The Axiell Group, with its Headquarters based in Lund has more than 285 employees, has offices in Sweden, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK and in the USA. Together, we form the one of the world’s largest companies in these sectors.