Sunday, April 15, 2007

Use of Academic Libraries and Services: A UK Report

The report, Researchers’ Use of Academic Libraries and their Services, commissioned by the UK’s Research Information Network and the Consortium of Research Libraries has just been published.
From the Executive Summary:
This study was designed to provide an up-to-date and forward-looking view of how researchers interact with academic libraries in the UK. Harnessing empirical data and qualitative insights from over 2250 researchers and 300 librarians, the sponsors of the survey hope that the results will be useful in informing the debate about the future development of academic libraries and the services they provide to researchers. . . .
There has been a sharp fall over the past five years in the number of researchers who visit their institution’s library regularly. This is most pronounced in the sciences, but in all disciplines there is clear evidence of declining attendance. Researchers are choosing to access digital information from their desktops, primarily from their office but also from their homes. Only in the arts and humanities do a significant majority of researchers put a high value on the services provided in library buildings. . . .
Most researchers use digital finding aids to locate both digital and print-based resources. Print finding aids are used by very few researchers, and these are mainly in the arts and humanities. This highlights the need for libraries to ensure that they provide online high-quality metadata for their holdings, and that they address cataloguing backlogs. Information resources that cannot be found electronically may well be overlooked, since few researchers will invest the time required to track down items that cannot be quickly be identified using digital finding aids. . . .
For librarians, liaison with the research community presents a number of problems, arising from the transience of many of the individual relationships that can be formed, the increasing tendency for researchers to use library services remotely, and researcher independence. There are significant differences between researchers and librarians in attitudes, perceptions and awareness of key issues. Many believe that communication channels need to be improved but achieving this is not easy. There is a danger that the role of libraries may be diluted as researchers, particularly younger ones, turn to the social networking space to share research-based information. This potential divergence of paths is not inevitable; but libraries need to proclaim their value so that researchers properly understand and acknowledge what the library is bringing to their working lives, and most particularly to their desktops. At present, many do not, perceiving only that these resources are delivered by the institution in some general guise. The successful research library of the future needs to forge a stronger brand identity within the institution. . . . MORE

1 comment:

borrodell said...

Hi Brendan,

Thanks for the mention - hope you found our report to be interesting reading! If you've any comments or queries, we'd be delighted to hear from you.

All the best
(RIN communications officer)