OCLC Global Council · August 2023
Libraries are continually evolving how they engage with users to make the most impact within their communities. Recently, this has included a renewed emphasis on proactively shaping experiences around library spaces, programming, collections, and staff development.
In 2023, the OCLC Global Council voted to concentrate its area of focus on the important topic of “redefining the library experience.” This is a concept that builds on the findings from OCLC Research initiatives such as the New Model Library and its framework.
Conducted in partnership with OCLC Research, the 2023 survey explored themes such as community engagement, collaboration, and innovative programs that meet library users’ continually evolving needs and expectations. The results of that survey provide insight into ways that library leaders and workers expect changing library experiences to create more meaningful engagement and positive impacts.
How are you including thoughts about the library experience in your future planning? Compare your ideas with those of your peers from around the world as you consider how to drive change over the next decade.
Global Council areas of focus concentrate efforts around a topic of interest to libraries around the world. This important work spans not only geographic regions, but all types of libraries—while providing opportunities for professionals at all levels of their careers to participate and add their voices and ideas to the conversation. Previous topics included: Libraries and Open Ecosystems, Sustainable Development Goals, Discovery and Fulfillment, and Open Access, Open Content.
While the survey garnered data across a wide variety of questions, a few findings stand out as particularly notable with regard to the subject of changing library experiences:
We’ll see how those findings relate to three specific topics within the library experience:
Top 5 countries/territories
How will experiences related to library resources and services change in the next ten years?
Respondents were asked, “How do you anticipate the space in your library designed for meetings or collaborative work for users might change in the next 5–10 years?” Fifty-nine percent anticipate this type of physical space will increase, 23% feel it will remain the same, and just 3% feel it will decrease.
Academic library respondents (66%) are significantly more likely to anticipate this increase compared to public library respondents (55%) and other library type respondents (42%).
Respondents were asked to describe the most significant ways physical space will change and 388 provided a comment. Nearly a third (32%) of these respondents say their library’s physical space will have collaborative, technology-enabled space or rooms for meetings, classes, collaboration, creation, etc.
Open science remains a focus for the near future in academic libraries. Two out of three respondents from academic libraries expect online and in-person services as well as staff focus and use of technology that support open science and/or research to increase.
“With the data guidelines for open science, we anticipate more infrastructure needs there and [potential] integration with the research office and outreach to departments.”
While much of the work done by libraries on behalf of their institutions and communities is local, the ways in which that work is accomplished often rely on collaborative arrangements and cooperation between libraries and other organizations.
Respondents were presented with five services that libraries typically receive from consortia (or cooperatives/buying clubs) and were asked how they anticipate these services would change in the next 5–10 years.
Most respondents expect cooperative resource sharing, content buying, and staff training/development resources to either increase or remain the same.
More than half of respondents, regardless of library type, expect resource sharing to increase (public: 54%, academic: 61%, other library types: 62%).
Public library respondents were presented with five types of organizations that libraries may collaborate or partner with to address the needs of their user communities and were asked how they anticipate these collaborations/partnerships would change in the next 5–10 years. Nearly half reported that they expect four out of five of those collaborative relationships to increase.
Only 28% of public library respondents felt that partnerships with for-profit services and businesses in the community were likely to increase.
Academic library respondents were more likely to report expected increases in collaborations/partnerships with consortia and other libraries and library groups.
Only 19% of academic library respondents felt partnerships with nonprofit services in the community would increase, and only 9% indicated partnerships with for-profit services and businesses would increase.
Disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for library workers that continue to reverberate. How technology is used by library workers has changed and will continue to do so. In addition, the need for flexible work options and access to mental health remain important topics for consideration.
Forty-four percent (44%) of total respondents expect flexible working options to increase over the next 5–10 years. And while only 26% believe that access to mental health care will increase, another 30% believe it will at least remain the same.
Both academic and public library respondents expect the use of data analytics and collection analysis technology by staff will increase. Academic respondents also see an increase in data management and curation technologies, while public respondents expect an increase in technologies for marketing/communications and event management.
In closing, we asked respondents: How would you like your library to be described ten years from today? The following options were provided, and respondents were asked to rank their choices. They replied:
How would you answer that question? What experiences—for your users, your staff, and your partners at other libraries and organizations—will change?
We’ve seen dramatic changes over the past decades in how libraries provide resources and services. Many of those have been further accelerated by the recent global pandemic. But every library is different. Whether you see yourself reflected in these results—or are experiencing a very different set of changes—your vision can help shape the future of library experiences for your library and our profession as a whole.
OCLC Research and Global Council conducted an online survey of libraries throughout the world from 9 January – 31 March 2023. This was the first year the survey was translated into multiple languages: Dutch, English, German, International French, International Spanish, and Italian. An invitation to participate in the survey was shared with the library community on 9 January 2023 via email, at member events, and online through the OCLC Community Center and social media channels. A total of 1,627 respondents from 77 countries/territories completed or partially completed the survey: 898 (55%) from 18 countries in the Americas, 641 (39%) from 43 countries/territories in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), and 88 (6%) from 16 countries/territories in Asia Pacific. Just over half (52%) of respondents are from academic (or education) libraries (college/university/higher education/research [46%]; community college [3%]; school [K–12] [2%] and other education [.4%]). Nearly a third (30%) are from public libraries and 18% are from other library types, such as government and special libraries.
OCLC would like to thank the 1,627 library professionals who completed the survey. Also special thanks to the OCLC Global Council, and in particular, the members of the 2021–2023 Global Council Program Committee: Reinhard Altenhöner (chair), May Chan, Sasekea Harris, Jennifer Maguire-Wright, Gaye Rowley, Jan Simane, Anna Wolodoko, and OCLC staﬀ on the Membership, Research and Market Research teams: Helene Blowers, Joanne Cantrell, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Peggy Gallagher, Lesley A. Langa, and Christina Rodriques.
Connaway, Lynn Silipigni, Joanne Cantrell, Peggy Gallagher, Lesley A. Langa, and Christina Rodriques. Redefining the library experience: Findings from the 2023 OCLC Global Council Survey. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research. https://doi.org/10.25333/nzn0-xx63 https://doi.org/10.25333/b0m5-g935 https://doi.org/10.25333/dx8h-r654 https://doi.org/10.25333/r30n-t304 https://doi.org/10.25333/88q3-6764 https://doi.org/10.25333/e046-mk68 https://doi.org/10.25333/tegy-9j35 https://doi.org/10.25333/6e3j-0038 https://doi.org/10.25333/3avz-q178