Monday, June 26, 2006

How to Change Libraries

Library non -users have negative perceptions of libraries are fairly deeply entrenched and a strong sense that libraries are ‘not for me’. As a first step to changing this perception the Department of Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Museum Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) have published the findings of a "comprehensive qualitative study involving 15 group discussions with 14-35 year develop full understanding and provide evidence for potential future strategies for the public library service that will result in increased usage amongst the 14-35 age group."

The report notes a number of key findings:

"The most modernised libraries within the research come close to requirements but others require further development still, on aspects such as:

• transformation in the range and quality of stock in terms of media, subject matter and currency, as well as reform of its presentation, accompanied by proactive support by library staff (and potentially collaborative work with partner agencies to stimulate interest in bringing stock alive to the interests and motivations of users)

• increased accessibility via electronic access (e.g. to resources across the whole of the UK and direct delivery to the home or work, networked access to support through websites and other emerging communications systems)

• dispelling the culture of predominant quiet and replacing it with optional areas for quiet reading or dialogue and discussion between users and with staff who are active around the library interacting with users on a free and easy basis

• introducing a growing range of activities in the library and elsewhere to create
in the library a destination as well as an outlet

• Clearly, such developments will bring benefits to the wider library-using audience

• For libraries to become truly compelling to this 14-35 audience, however, and a
destination of choice, developments also need to take into account the specific
needs of five different segments2 within the target audience.

• The extent of change and development for these different user groups vary. Some
groups (such as ‘Borrowers’ and ‘Students’) require little beyond the baseline requirements above. Other groups (‘Family Activity Seekers’ and ‘Functional Dabblers’) require more effort but their needs are in line with what libraries currently offer. ‘Teenage Space Seekers’ require more radical developments and thus further consideration needs to be given as to the best way to accommodate them in the future, e.g. through general or more dedicated facilities, based on
strategy objectives."

If this study is taken seriously then the government must halt the current programme of library closures in order to ensure that communities are properly served. They must also kick-start a massive programme of building refurbishment to ensure that libraries are clean , welcoming and well-equipped. They also need to ensure that the library book stocks are over-hauled and upgraded, and reverse the decline in staff moral that has stemmed from continuing job-losses that have over-stretched staff as they have been assigned increased additional workloads.
The full report is available on the MLA website as a pdf download:

Please note the url for this page has been shortened using digbig