OCLC: Perceptions of Libraries 2010 Report

Good news? Not hardly!

OCLC’s Report to the Membership “Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community” is the latest in a series of such reports on OCLC’s efforts to “learn about the attitudes and habits of the emerging ‘online information consumer’.” Putting the study results in “Context”, OCLC announces;

Not only are Americans using the library and its many services more, they also see increased value of the library for themselves and for their communities. They agree—overwhelmingly—that librarians are valuable. And they believe—overwhelmingly—that libraries equal books.

I sincerely hope I’m not the only one who cringes at this statement, and the archaic perception it represents. That Americans are using their local library more because of the major recession is not news, or in the least bit surprising. But, Americans believe – “overwhelmingly – that libraries equal books.” Is that the perception librarians want their 21st Century customers to have – Libraries = Books? Talk about your damaging library stereotypes!

So, when the recession is past and even more people can afford that smartphone they have put off buying, who is going to be interested in pBooks at the library? When the economy recovers and people return to their normal habits of spending for entertainment, doing less job searching, going to amusement parks instead of the library, using Netflix, reading eBooks, etc., what is going to happen to that library use? This report provides only good news for the MOST shortsighted perspective imaginable.

Early in the report, authors presented their “Hot Spots” information from 2003, 2005 and 2007 as a prelude to their 2010 data. Their last bullet item was this vague, unsupported assertion.
Positive librarian perceptions impact library funding. The value of the librarian grew even stronger in 2010. This is good for funding. A high correlation exists between funding support for public libraries and positive librarian perceptions.” (Source: From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support in America OCLC, 2008.)

Again, OCLC seems not to recognize the contradictions in their information. The 2008 reference of funding support, based on information collected in 2007, is useless in 2011. Pre- and During- Recession data is totally unrelated. Not to mention, their own referenced 2008 report contains totally contradictory information to this 2010 assertion!

When asked to indicate which of a number of public services they would agree to fund through an increase in local taxes, most elected officials indicated a higher likelihood to support funding initiatives for the fire department, public schools and police department than for the public library. …
1. Most people claim they would support the library at the ballot box—fewer are firmly committed to it.
2. There is a lot that people don’t know about their public library.
3. Library support is only marginally related to visitation. Advocating for library support to library users focuses effort and energy on the wrong target group.
(Pg 1-6) [Emphasis added.]

Undaunted, the authors continue to paint in the most positive terms, the bleakest outlook for libraries.

Libraries in the technology landscape
The technology landscape that continues to empower information consumers has set new expectations for library users. Libraries are responding by offering new services and by joining the online social networks used by their information consumers. Eleven percent (11%) of larger U.S. public libraries have a Facebook site (ALA, April 2010). A search conducted in January 2011 identified more than 15,700 Facebook URLs that include the word “library.” Libraries also have a growing presence on social media sites. In 2007, a YouTube search found 25,700 videos that included “library,” “libraries” or “librarians.” In January 2011, that number has rocketed to 1,010,000 videos, a 3,830% increase.

Apparently David Letterman’s “Bush Library Top Ten” counts as positive growth of libraries on YouTube, as do Mr. Bean Extras – “Library & Bus Stop”, and Jack Vale “Farting In The Library”. Seriously? This is the kind of research OCLC is using to support their assertions of a brilliant outlook for our libraries?

Libraries provide vital technology services to their users both outside and inside the library. Libraries are delivering services to their increasingly mobile communities by offering mobile connections to their Web sites and catalogs. Some are offering mobile ask-a-question services via text messaging. According to an October 2010 survey conducted by Library Journal, 44% of academic libraries and 34% of public libraries offer some type of mobile services.

Libraries are playing a central and increasingly critical role as technology providers for American information consumers.
(Pg 15) [Emphasis added.]

SERIOUSLY? Based on what standard? Providing wireless Internet access? Some type of mobile services? GET REAL! Wi-Fi and Apps are EVERYWHERE!! ALL of the major telecommunications service providers are killing libraries with SMARTPHONES! Apps are pulling library customers AWAY by the millions with their information providing services!

Technology growth is exponential – but not in the library. (Pg 11)

Social networking use is exponential – but not in the library. (Pg 12)

Smartphone sales are through the roof – but not being used by the library. (Pg 13)

eBook use is growing exponentially – but not in the library – while Google makes digital libraries available to every person on earth. (Pg 14)

Page 28 has some really discouraging data.

Technology at the library empowers Americans who have increased their library use …
• Borrowing books, CDs, DVDs, etc., more often
Economically Impacted = 91% Not Impacted = 79%
• Accessing the Internet for free more often
Economically Impacted = 35% Not Impacted = 14%
• Reading magazines more often
Economically Impacted = 29% Not Impacted = 23%
• Using the computer more often
Economically Impacted = 28% Not Impacted = 12%
• Accessing the free Wi-Fi (wireless Internet) more often
Economically Impacted = 24% Not Impacted = 9%

Economically impacted Americans are reading more magazines at the library than they are using the computers, or even accessing Wi-Fi. When the recession is over, where is the good news for 21st Century libraries in this report?

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One response to “OCLC: Perceptions of Libraries 2010 Report

  1. Pingback: ReadingPower1 10/09/2011 « READINGPOWER

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