Pew Research has a report out on how people interact with libraries. InfoDocket has a summary of some of the more interesting findings. Of particular note, more people now know their libraries lend e-books (38%, up from 31% in 2012) but 46% of library patrons 16 or older don’t know if their library has e-books. Given that 95% of all libraries in the US do have e-book collections, this seems like a pretty big knowledge gap.
Even those who are aware their library lends e-books don’t necessarily take advantage of it:
Some 16% of those who are aware their library lends e-books have downloaded an e-book from their public library – that amounts to 6% of all those ages 16 and older who have borrowed an e-book from their library.
The report also suggests that use of libraries is decreasing, and the ALA has announced a new publicity campaign, “Libraries Transform,” to try to turn this around.
Other interesting findings: 50% of public library website users accessed it with a mobile device (tablet or smartphone), up from 39% in 2012. Also:
45% say that libraries should “definitely” purchase new digital technologies such as 3-D printers to let people explore how to use them. Another 35% say libraries should “maybe” do this.
This puts me in mind of a panel I attended during Gen Con Trade Day, in which a librarian from Ferris State University discussed the importance of libraries as sandboxes, offering access to new digital and technological tools people couldn’t necessarily find elsewhere. At the time, the panel impressed me with a demonstration of how libraries could continue to be centers for developing knowledge and learning in more ways than just checking out books to people.
But on the other hand, I wonder just how useful that will be if people don’t know about it? If almost half of all library patrons don’t even know whether their library offers something as basic as e-books, while 95% of them do, it seems like there is a failing in passing knowledge along somehow.
But then, even among those who do know their library has e-books, only 1 in 6 has bothered to check them out. Are people just not that interested in e-books? Or do they find the process for checking out e-books too complex? I haven’t found anything that hard about checking them out from my local library, though I only download them to my PC.
It does seem a bit strange that e-books are so seldom-used, especially since you can check them out without even having to go into the library itself. You’d think they’d be more popular, given that e-book sales will be surpassing print sales within just a few years.