Library users 'unaware of support available'

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A huge majority of library users are unaware of the full extent of librarian support and would like the library more 'deeply embedded in their workflows'.

That is one conclusion of a survey by Lean Library, a Technology from SAGE company, released this week.

The organisation's Librarian Futures white paper synthesises survey results with unique data from Lean Library usage alongside data from a range of librarian and library stakeholder interviews, and  contributions from partners scite, Springshare, OpenAthens and OCLC. It builds on previous research into the future of the library, positioning the librarian at the center of the analysis. Examining current trends in librarian-patron interactions and understanding, the report poses 'innovation provocations', or potential solutions to embed the library in the patron’s workflow, and recommendations for librarians to evaluate and debate.

Commenting on the report, Matthew Hayes, managing director of Lean Library, said: 'As a company founded by librarians, keeping the librarian at the heart of what we do is incredibly important to us. This report has been part of a broader listening exercise to understand how to embed librarians in the modern patron workflow. The findings are fundamentally optimistic, showing high levels of patron enthusiasm for their librarians and an appetite for closer interactions in their modern workflows – fertile ground for librarians to make the innovations needed for the next generation of the library.”

Andrew Barker, director of library services and learning development at Lancaster University, added: 'Librarian Futures resonates with our new vision here at Lancaster, ‘The Library Towards 2025,’ which is about ensuring we not only remain relevant but also become more central to teaching, research and engagement. As this report shows, libraries do so much more than often our stakeholders realise. We need to increase awareness of our value, and ensure we are not seen as simply a repository of silent students and print books, but actually at the forefront of our users’ university experience, both digital and physical.

'As librarians I would argue that we need to craft and articulate a new vision for our libraries and how we contribute to student and researcher outcomes. This will mean being smart about our resources and budgets, such as better use of demand driven content, but also taking a user-first strategy in what we do and how we do it. Ensuring our users have the right content at the right time will remain pivotal to what we do, but so will expanding our focus into new areas of service provision such as content creation, digital tools and teaching.'

Key findings from the report include:

  • A knowledge gap exists between patrons and the full extent of librarian support available to them, and between librarians and the emerging needs of their patrons. The paper examines how this knowledge gap may be contributing to perceptions of the diminishing importance of the librarian to the patron experience.
  • 79 per cent of faculty and 74 per cent of students now begin their discovery process outside the library, on websites such as Google Scholar, but appreciation and use of library services remain high, suggesting further appetite for librarians to meet patrons in their workflow.
  • Librarians are highly appreciated by their patrons, significantly more so than librarians anticipated. 84 per cent of faculty patrons appreciate librarians’ ‘a lot’ or ‘a great deal’.
  • 82 per cent of librarians and 88 per cent of patrons would want librarian and library services embedded throughout their workflow, available to call on when needed. Patrons may have preferred routes outside the library in recent years, but this does not diminish their demand for librarian support.

Download the full Librarian Futures report here.