Back in January the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported its findings on Americans' attitudes and expectations for public libraries (2,252 Americans aged 16 and above were surveyed in Oct/Nov 2012).
In short, people still very much value and appreciate the traditional format of public library services (i.e. provider of books and periodicals as well as ancillary support services): 80% feel that borrowing books and access to reference librarians is “very important”. However, it comes as no surprise that access to desktop computers and the Web are also regarded as indispensable features that make up a modern public library service.
The table to the right provides an overview of what people generally expect from a public library these days.
One particularly interesting revelation of this research was that despite the general rise of e-reading device ownership/use in the US and a related decline of printed-book readership (down from 72% to 67% over the last 12 months),
36% of surveyed people feel that libraries should "definitely not”
change by moving printed books out of public library spaces (Zickuhr et al., 2013, p. 4).
That’s the view from across the Atlantic. But what’s the score in Ireland when it comes to public libraries and peoples’ use and expectations? The picture here is essentially very similar according to an Ipsos MORI survey about the attitude to and use of public libraries in Ireland for the Carnegie UK Trust (1000 Irish people aged 15 and above were surveyed in Aug-Oct 2011).
People also view a broad offering of reading materials and high-quality information services as the core responsibility of public libraries toward their patrons. 79% of people feel that public libraries are "very important" or "essential" for communities. Interestingly, two thirds of non-users regard the public library as an important service.
Even though digital service offers are increasingly in demand, my bottom line interpretation is that personalised information services still very much determine a healthily functioning public library right across the geographic divide.