A survey held by OCLC in spring this year among librarians from the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands shows that practitioners expect library usage to change considerably. About three quarters expected a rise in online visits within the next year, and two-thirds of those who responded anticipating a change in the primary reason to visit the library in the next five years.
The increase in online visits that is expected by 71-85% of librarians (percentages vary by country) contrasts dramatically with their expectations of low growth in physical visits in the next 12 months. Demonstrating perhaps that users will continue to rely on libraries for getting their information, but not necessarily by coming through the library doors.
The primary reason for library use will also change in the next five years, according to 59-69% of responding librarians. With access to online databases and journals being the primary reason in 2017 for ‘visits'. The survey confirms the view that the borrowing of physical items is still the primary reason for visiting libraries today.
As a library cooperative, OCLC initiates in-depth studies and topical surveys regularly to help libraries understand issues and trends that affect librarianship and help plan for the future. “This is the first time we conducted a survey specifically among European librarians, so that the report can focus on the findings that are relevant for this particular part of the world,” said Eric van Lubeek, managing director of OCLC EMEA. “The fact that a number of these findings are different from US findings, and also differ among the individual countries, proves that this survey was very timely.”
According to the survey, among the top priorities for libraries to focus their activities on, are delivering eContent, visibility of the library's collection and demonstration of the library value to its funders.
279 librarians from the United Kingdom, 143 librarians from Germany and 152 librarians from the Netherlands participated in the survey that was held among public and academic library staff and management. OCLC conducted a similar study among librarians in the United States in the autumn of 2011. Snapshot reports from all these surveys can be found on the OCLC website.