This #LibrariesWeek, Adrian Leguina reflects on why libraries still matter – and why we want library users to take part in our research.
Libraries Week’s #ShareTheChange campaign reminds us of the range of services that Libraries provide to communities. They strike a balance between providing a varied cultural offering, opening up digital services, giving access to critical services and helping people in need acquire relevant skills. Public libraries play a unique role in society, providing support from the cradle to the grave, as places for learning but also empowerment for those lacking opportunities at home.
Recent research using data from the English Taking Part Survey explores the significance of public libraries for their users, and found four distinctive communities. Users labelled as ‘Traditional’ are exclusively focused on book borrowing, and those engaging in multiple ways are called ‘Active’. ‘Family oriented’ users are more inclined to join in library events and ‘Tech Access’ visitors concentrate their engagement around use of hardware and on-site online services. It is interesting to notice that regardless of the user profile, book borrowing remains an important form of engagement with libraries. In fact, 27.5% of library users only use libraries in this way.
Contrary to what we might expect, borrowed books are still an important part of people’s reading habits. We hope our research at the Novel Perceptions project not only stimulates literacy and readings cultures, but also makes you consider which books we value as a society. That’s why, when we put together our list of 400 most popular recent novels, we drew on library data as well as data from book sales.
To help that process, we invite you to take part by filling out our Big Book Review survey. The success of such comprehensive analysis depends greatly on access to information that represents the diversity of readers and the books they care about – whether they were purchased, gifted, borrowed from a friend’s bookshelf or found in a local library.
You can read more about my research into the role of libraries here.
Adrian Leguina is co-investigator of Novel Perceptions.