A Public Library Research Project

Rapidly evolving societal, technological, and financial influences on US and Canadian public libraries are increasingly shaping the daily work of leaders and staff. This includes how they meet the needs of their communities while balancing efficiency and staff well-being. This OCLC Public Library Research Project explores the current public library landscape to identify current and emerging priorities that can benefit from future investigation.  

The resulting research findings are organized into three experiences important to public libraries.  

  • Engagement experiences—Discusses in-person and virtual programs and spaces that comprise the public library experience, along with partnerships that facilitate community connections.   
  • Collections experiences—Covers physical and electronic resources held and shared by public libraries, along with broadband and technology hardware and software and the concept of space as a resource.   
  • Work experiences—Examines the flexible and evolving nature of workplace environments, interactions, and concerns in public libraries.

Research to discover broad insights that can inform further public library research was conducted in the following areas:

  • Literature review—Included peer-reviewed and practitioner-focused literature from the past five to ten years and benchmark literature identified through research and suggestions from the Advisory Group members.  
  • Focus group interviews—Based on virtual and in-person interviews representing individuals from public libraries, including directors, managers, and frontline staff.
  • OCLC Global Council Survey—Survey findings from US and Canadian public library leader and staff on ways they anticipate future changes to library workflows, services, and collections.

Public library leaders and staff in the US and Canada are faced with a variety of unique opportunities and challenges today. This research investigates these realities to support public libraries in developing impactful strategic planning and advocacy efforts and identifying areas for further research and engagement.  

Quick Links

Short URL: https://oc.lc/PLR-project  


Related Projects & Publications

New Model Library - The OCLC Research team met with global library leaders to discuss emerging library models in response to the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic

Redefining the library experience - This report presents findings from a global survey of libraries that explored themes such as community engagement, collaboration, and innovative programs that meet library users’ continually evolving needs and expectations.

Advisory Board

This project was supported by the generous time and expertise contributed by our Advisory Group.  

  • Stacey Aldrich, State Librarian of Hawaii    
  • Vickery Bowles, City Librarian, Toronto Public Library    
  • Shelli Golson-Mickens, Senior Associate, Innovation Network  
  • David Johnson, Executive Director, Fayetteville Public Library, AR      
  • Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, Researcher, Consultant, Owner, Kendrick Consulting & Communications, LLC  
  • Noah Lenstra, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Library and Information Science School of Education at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro
  • Shannon Oltmann, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky    
  • Amy Stone, Director, Bridgton Public Library, ME    
  • Kelvin Watson, Executive Director, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, NV    
  • Kathy Zappitello, Executive Director, Conneaut Public Library, OH