DUBLIN, Ohio, December 6, 2005-OCLC Online Computer Library Center, the world's largest library cooperative, has found that information consumers view libraries as places to borrow print books, but they are unaware of the rich electronic content they can access through libraries.
The findings are part of Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources, a report issued today by OCLC. The new report, based on surveys of information users across six countries administered by Harris Interactive on behalf of OCLC, is a follow-up to The 2003 OCLC Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition, the award-winning report that describes issues and trends that are impacting and will impact OCLC and libraries.
"We wanted to know more about people's information-seeking practices and preferences, how familiar people are with the wide variety of e-resources libraries provide for their users, and how libraries compare to other information resources, particularly Web-based resources," said Cathy De Rosa, Vice President, OCLC Marketing & Library Services, and a principal contributor to the report. "One of the most important goals of the project was also to gain a better understanding of 'The Library' brand."
Among the findings of the report:
- Respondents use search engines to begin an information search (84 percent). One percent begin an information search on a library Web site.
- Information consumers use the library but they use the library less and read less since they began using the Internet.
- Borrowing print books is the library service used most; "Books" is the library brand.
- Quality and quantity of information are top determinants of a satisfactory electronic information search, not speed of results.
- Respondents do not trust purchased information more than free information.
- Ninety percent of respondents are satisfied with their most recent search for information using a search engine.
- consumers like to self-serve. They use personal knowledge and common sense to judge if electronic information is trustworthy, and they cross-reference other sites to validate their findings.
- The survey results show that library and information preferences and use are consistent among respondents in the six countries surveyed.
"The information resource market-tools, content and access-is growing, not shrinking, providing more options and more choices to people using the Web to search for information and content," said Ms. De Rosa. "Libraries are seen as a place for traditional resources-such as books, reference materials and research assistance-and to get access to the internet. The results of this survey confirm that libraries are not seen as the top choice for access to electronic resources."
Survey findings are generally consistent across geographic regions. Responses about awareness, familiarity and usage of electronic resources showed consistent views among respondents in the six countries surveyed.
"The challenge for libraries is to clearly define and market their relevant place in the infosphere-their services and collections both physical and virtual," said Ms. De Rosa. "It's time to rejuvenate the 'Library' brand."
Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources is available for download free of charge at www.oclc.org/reports/2005perceptions.htm. Print copies of the 286-page report are also available for purchase from the same site.
Headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, OCLC Online Computer Library Center is a nonprofit organization that has provided computer-based cataloging, reference, resource sharing, eContent and preservation services to 54,000 libraries in 109 countries and territories. For more information, visit www.oclc.org.