Carol French, CEO Market Probe Canada, presented the latest study for the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries at the Defining New Metrics for Libraries Success symposium at the iSchool (University of Toronto) this week.  These statistics are hot off the press.  Carol’s presentation is at the bottom of the post. I encourage you to read it, and to prepare to be engaged with FOPL’s discernment of these statistics. I’m sure there will be position papers coming from FOPL on this very soon.

Here’s the key points I heard:

  • 600 telephone interviews were conducted over a month in 2015 (this is about 1/2 of the #  conducted in previous telephone surveys because, given the challenges of conducting telephone surveys today, this survey was augmented with an online survey)
  • 1102 online surveys were conducted during 5 days in March using Delvinia’s Asking Canadians online panel.

There were some significant differences between phone & web respondents:

  • households with children responded to many more phone interviews than web survey (that’s interesting to me…..I have to think about that one…..)
  • those graduated from college or university more likely to respond to web survey than phone
  • those living in Metro TO and GTA more likely to respond to web survey than phone interview (makes sense; the web is still not evenly distributed)

Other points of interest to me (you may have very different points of interest – I’m sure we are going to be discussing the results of this survey for months to come, as we should.)

  • 86% of population read at least 1 book in the past year; 17% reading only digitally
  • Avid readers tend to be over 55 years of age
  • 47% visit bookstores online; 22% visit in person; 31% don’t go to bookstores at all
    • Bookstores may seem to be on the decline, but according to Carol, “no matter how you cut it, bookstores still have more usage than libraries.”
  • 73% have library cards (this is an increase since 2010)
  • 24% of people don’t use the library
  • less people with children use the library than in previous studies
  • 31% don’t use the public library; this has been consistent in every survey since 2000
    • So, why don’t they use?
      • they get information from other sources or, they have no interest in the library.
  • 27% of respondents only use the library in person; this has decreased from 37% in 2010
  • Frequency of visiting the library in person has remained constant, while online access has increased over the last five years
    • this is similar to what occurred in banking as automated banking machines became more prevalent – people’s tendency is to use all access points: phone, in person and web

In terms of the “Benefit of Public Libraries Relative to Other Municipal Tax-Supported Services“:

  • Libraries are top of list for 36%, which hasn’t changed since 2005; libraries are bottom of the list for 11%
  • 56% Strongly Agree that “public libraries are important because they promote literacy and a love of reading” (note, that there is also an Agree % that is not included here – so this could be an impressive positioning statement)
  • An interesting stat that I need to delve into more deeply is that the “Value and Usage of public libraries are lower for those responding to the web survey than Value and Usage for those responding to the telephone survey”
  • Services of high value to both users and non-users include those for young children, the unemployed and new Canadians
  • Overall opinions & value perceptions of the library remain very strong – but – and here’s where we really need to pay attention: — “Numbers of library users have remained consistent, but usage patterns have changed.”
    • Reported in-person library visit frequency has remained the same over the years, but in 2015, the number of people using the library both online and in-person has surpassed the number of in-person-only visitors.
    • Usage of many services is lower than reported previously, indicating that library users may be becoming more selective in choosing which services to use.
    • Majority of residents feel if their local library were to close, it would have a major impact on the community (ah…….but not necessarily on them personally)

Market Probe Canada’s Comments:

  • Regular review of strategies and tactics becomes even more important as technology, channel, and media preferences change.
  • Libraries need to determine which investments to do and to avoid: electronic access is complementing, not replacing, in-person usage for the foreseeable future
  • Communicating about new service offerings will be as important as providing them; one-way advertising is being replaced by dialogue for all sectors, not just libraries
  • Older people’s respect for the social contribution of the public library system will not necessarily be passed down to younger generations

And last, but certainly not least: Market_Probe_slide




Click here for: Market Probe Canada Presentation of Market Research for FOPL