Central Library Collections Survey

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Central Library Lending Collections: a report on current usage and client satisfaction

Books on shelvesIntroduction

The Central Library, Ilac Centre is Dublin’s main city library. It opened in July 1986 and provides lending services to the residents of Dublin and beyond. The library opened with some 60,000 items in 1986. Now, over 130,000 items are available in the Adult, Junior and Music collections at the Central Library.

The aims of this project were to examine current usage of the lending collections and client satisfaction. In order to add to statistical data gathered from the library management system, and provide a fuller picture, four new surveys were carried out in the Central Library in 2010. Two surveys were observational and two were questionnaire based and consulted with users directly.

Research and Consultation

Two observational surveys were conducted in the Junior Library and the Music Library during May and June 2010. Each was carried out for a total of 12 hours, with the observational periods taking place in 2 hour time slots, on different days of the week. The aim of the surveys was to find out how much time users spent in the specific library locations, their gender and age profile, which services they used and what percentage of users borrowed from the libraries. 177 users were observed during the 12 hour survey period in the Junior Library. 202 users were observed in the Music Library.

The questions asked in the two consultative surveys covered 4 key areas: user profile, pattern of usage, collection usage and satisfaction.

Central Library User Survey (July 2010). This questionnaire based survey was conducted online and at the Central Library between 5th and 18th July 2010. The aim was to find out about the way adult visitors use the Central Library and their views on the collections held there. It focussed on the user’s normal usage of the library. There were 372 responses in the library and 21 online.

Junior Library User Survey (July 2010). This questionnaire based survey was conducted at the Junior Library between 5th and 18th July 2010. The aim of the survey was to find out about patterns of Junior Library usage and users’ comments. This survey yielded 101 responses.

Overview of results

Who uses the Central Library lending services?

The Central Library delivered lending services to over 10,000 active borrowers in 2009. According to survey data, the highest rate of library usage was by the 25 – 44 age group. The main catchment areas for borrowers using Adult and Junior lending services were Dublin 1, 7, 8 and 9. The highest percentages of Music library borrowers were from Dublin 7, 1, 6 and 8.

Respondents to the Central Library User Survey (2010) were principally of Irish nationality (68.7%), with Brazilian (3.7%), Italian (2.9%), Spanish (2.1%) and Mauritian (1.8%) the next highest groups represented. In response to the same survey, 76% of library users spoke English as a first language. After English, the next top 4 languages spoken by respondents were Portuguese (3.1%), Italian (2.8%), Spanish (2.3%) and Polish (1.6%).

Full or part time employment accounted for the highest occupational category in the Central Library User Survey (2010), with 34% of users, followed by full or part time students at 20.2%. Five types of disability or long term illness were listed by 12% of respondents to the survey. 93% of survey respondents did not use an e-reader.

Respondents to the Junior Library User Survey (2010) listed 27 languages spoken in their homes. 56% spoke English at home. The next highest percentages given were Irish (9.2%), Polish (3.5%), Russian (3.5%) and Chinese (3.5%). The highest numbers of Junior Library registered members came from the immediate catchment areas of Dublin 1 and Dublin 7.

What is their pattern of usage?

The overall visitor count for the Central Library in 2009 was 485,853. The busiest period of the day, in terms of book issues, was between 1pm and 5pm. From survey data, the majority of library users visited the library between 1 and 3 times a month. The average length of visit varied according to service area – Adult Lending 17 minutes, Junior Library 32 minutes, and Music Library 11.4 minutes.

In response to the Central Library User Survey (2010), borrowing books was the most popular service usage at 85%, with finding information at 41%.

Graph 1. Central Library User Survey (2010): Q.2 What do you use the Central Library for?

Graph 1. Central Library User Survey (2010): Q.2 What do you use the Central Library for?

[Text version of graph]

  • Borrowing Books - 85.2%
  • Borrowing DVDs - 33.8%
  • Borrowing Talking Books - 1.7%
  • Music Library - to borrow music CDs, DVDs, books or scores - 33.3%
  • Finding Information - 40.9%&
  • Using library computers 22.9%
  • Using Wi-Fi - 14.7%
  • Business Information - 11.9%
  • Language learning - 20.3%
  • Study - 33.5%
  • Reading newspapers and/or magazines in English - 34%
  • Reading newspapers and/or magazines in other language(s) - 5%
  • Exhibition/ lecture / library activities - 18.3%
  • Relaxing / browsing / meeting people - 15.7%
  • Other - 3.8%

Non-members came to the library to study (61.9%), to read newspapers and/or magazines in English (52.3%) or to find information (42.8%). In this survey, 63.8% of respondents said that the Central Library was not their local library, and 62.3% of respondents used other libraries. The 33.8% of respondents who said that the Central Library was their local library, showed a greater tendency to use library computers, Wi-Fi, look for business information, learn a language or read newspapers and/or magazines in English.

41 respondents to the Central Library User Survey (2010) were daily users of the Central Library respondents while 55 said that they visited the Central Library once a month or less. Daily users borrowed books at a lower rate, but were much more likely to read newspapers and/or magazines in English (+46.4%). Both groups used the library for study, but daily users were much more likely to do so (+31.8%). Daily users were much more likely to learn a language or borrow DVDs (+34.2%).

Female library users reported a greater tendency to borrow books, find information, learn a language, read newspapers or magazines in languages other than English, visit library exhibitions, lectures or participate in library activities. Male users were more likely to borrow talking books or DVDs, use Wi-Fi or computers in the library, use the Music Library or read newspapers and/or magazines in English in the library.

Junior Library users tended to visit in families or groups. From the Junior Library User Survey (2010), the highest category of usage was to borrow books (71.3%), while 66.3% of respondents read books at the library.

Graph 2. Junior Library User Survey (2010): Q1 What do you do in this library?

Graph 2. Junior Library User Survey (2010): Q1 What do you do in this library?

[Text version of graph]

  • Read - 66.3%
  • Borrow books - 71.3%
  • Borrow DVDs or CDs - 50.5%
  • Play games or colour pictures - 55.4%
  • Use the computers - 49.5%
  • Hang out with my friends - 27.7%
  • Do my homework or study - 26.7%
  • Look up things for school projects - 22.8%
  • Ask the librarian for help - 20.8%
  • Other - 4%
Collection usage

In 2009 the sum of total issues (including renewals) of Adult Library non-fiction items was 85,964, while total issues of fiction items were 56178.

Over a 6 week analysis period in March – April 2010, the most popular non-fiction categories borrowed in the Central Library were in the Dewey Decimal Classification System classes 900, 600 and 300. Broadly speaking, the 900 class includes travel, biography, European and World history, the 600 class include human physiology, food and drink and business management, and the 300 class include social sciences, political science, economics, law, criminology and education.

The most popular types of fiction borrowed overall by Central Library User Survey (2010) respondents were literary fiction (30%), crime fiction (27.9%), works by Irish authors (24.9%), adventure or thriller fiction (23.9%) and historical fiction (22.1%). The top 3 categories for male library users to borrow were non-fiction (47.9%), literary fiction (25%), and historical fiction (23.4%). For female borrowers, non-fiction was still first, but at a lower percentage (43.3%), followed by crime fiction (37%) and literary fiction (35.9%). The greatest percentage difference was in borrowing of romance fiction, at +23.9% borrowed by female users.

The top 3 foreign language issues in 2009 were Polish (1028 issues), Russian (347) and Chinese (346).

Other formats of material such as DVDs, Music CDs and Talking Books are also well used at the Central Library. From total issues over a 6 week analysis period in September – October 2010, a genre analysis of 7,254 issued Music CDs, showed that popular music makes up 40% of the issues. The classical music items, when all types e.g. vocal, instrumental, opera, were added together, made up 19.5% of the total. World Music was very popular at 15.7%, with Irish music also well borrowed at 10.3% of the total issues.

Graph 3. Music CD Issues, by genre for 6 week period 04/09/2010 - 16/10/2010

Graph 3. Music CD Issues, by genre for 6 week period 04/09/2010 - 16/10/2010

[Text version of graph]

  • Classical - 847
  • Contemporary Classical - 33
  • Female Vocal (Classical) - 96
  • Male Vocal (Classical) - 76
  • Opera - 180
  • Instrumental - 114
  • Vocal Compilation - 1
  • Early/Sacred - 47
  • Choral - 12
  • First Notes - 9
  • Folk/World - 9
  • Folk - 21
  • World - 1140
  • Irish - 748
  • Bands - 72
  • Popular/Rock - 2,907
  • Dance - 98
  • Country - 196
  • Jazz/Blues - 49
  • Jazz - 342
  • Blues - 51
  • Musical - 55
  • Film - 107
  • Children - 11
  • Relaxation - 13
  • Sound Effects - 18
  • Christmas - 2

Children's booksIn the Junior Library, fiction is borrowed more than non-fiction. The total issues of fiction and picture books for 2009 were 10,909, 4,183 non-fiction and 4,178 DVDs. Books in languages other than English, such as Irish, Spanish, Polish and French, are borrowed in both fiction and non-fiction genres.

299 different newspaper and magazine titles are available in the Central Library through all sections. 34% of respondents to the Central Library User Survey (2010) said that they read English language newspapers and/or magazines in the Central Library, while 5% said that they read newspapers and/or magazines in a language other than English. Respondents to Central Library User Survey (2010) listed 18 languages, other than Irish or English, in which they borrowed books or read newspapers or magazines. 16% of respondents said that they usually borrowed books in Irish. The sum total of issues and renewals of Central Library Adult Irish Language stock during 2009 was 655.

The overall percentage of users coming to the library to find information, according to the Central Library User Survey (2010) respondents, was 41%. 12% of respondents came to find business information.

What are library users most/least satisfied with?

Overall, the satisfaction with the collections was good. The highest dissatisfaction in the Adult Lending area was with the DVD collection. In the Music Library it was with the Music CD collection, which is the most heavily used collection in the Music Library.
Survey respondents gave informative comments about the collections, which will be of great value in developing and improving the Central Library service. These included observations on gaps in stock, subject area weaknesses, problems with technology and issues with waiting for new books.

Concluding Comments

This project has provided useful information about who uses the Central Library and why. It has called attention to potential areas for change and development, and underlined the importance of continually checking and weeding stock to ensure that the catalogue accurately mirrors the stock available and that new stock, in particular, is easy for users to find.

The Central Library User Survey (2010) has also given us the basis for further research and consultation with library users, as over 100 respondents to the survey expressed an interest in joining library focus groups. The purpose of these focus groups was to explore issues raised in the survey questions, invite suggestions about stock development in the Central Library lending collections, and seek views about experiences and expectations of a Central Library service. Three meetings have been held to date.

This research confirms the Central Library as an important resource for members and non-members, local and non-local users, for reading, learning and information retrieval.

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