It's nice to know that other Canadian Libraries are having the same issues as we do here at TPL. At the IST Fall Conference, Gail Richardson of "Libraries Moving Forward", devised a study to analyze User Behaviour & Expectation of Reference Services at Hamilton Public Library.
Over the last few years all statistics gathered in public libraries show a steady decline of up to 37% in the use of library reference services by the public. Libraries are worried about this steady downward trend. Our current surveys of reference questions don't capture details such as how long questions took, how many sources were used and what type of questions were asked. Gail Richardson's study looked at how the reference location affected the reference experience, what reference resources were consulted and observed and reported on different types of users and the different types of questions.
Gail used the Microsoft Access Database to create the tables and fields used in the study since it was easy to use and understand. 126 hours were spent tracking users and their questions on three floors of Hamilton's Central Library and at a few other branch locations.
Outcome and Results?
54% of the customers asking questions were female while 46% were male.
74% came to the library to ask their question in person while 26% phoned.
The average duration of a transaction was less than 2 minutes.
90% of the questions related to the collection while 10% of the questions concerned place or were directional.
Probably it is not surprising that 14% of the questions were considered reference while 86% were deemed non-reference.
Overview: Librarian skills might be better used away from the reference desk while we should take note that the impact of more complex technology has led the public to seek help at the library.
Something to think about....
If you like this survey and the interest Hamilton Public Library is taking in reference service, why not apply for the position of their Chief Librarian? Click here - Chief Librarian of HPL Application