Loving the library, living on the web

4000 users of seven UK academic libraries on how they view online library resources and services.

The survey asked the settings in which they access online library content and their views on a range of online library services including the website, search tools, and access to e-content.  They were also asked about their preferred discovery behaviour and tools and asked for ideas about making the online content easier to use.

Key findings

  • Online access, anywhere, via any device is the default access setting for students. Off campus is the most popular response to the question about where the library user is located when accessing online library services.  Libraries should ask themselves – do their resources work well off campus and across a variety of devices – this should be the default test for any online library service.
  • 32% of respondents did not mention the library at all as a setting in which they access online library services
  • Respondents are using a vast array of discovery resources, ranging from consulting Google or Wikipedia and reading lists, to using library search tools and/or union catalogues.  Because of this, libraries must do their best to ensure their resources can be surfaced in  as many ways as possible – e.g. SlideShare, Flickr, Wikipedia etc
  • Although specialised discovery tools are acknowledged and valued, it’s Google which provides the discovery benchmark
  • Users want library search to be reliable, flexible and intelligent
  • Users have high expectations which are being met by other digital services – libraries must strive to emulate these
  • Providing electronic course content is crucial.  Students want all their course readings/ textbooks/ book chapters to be universally available via digital downloads
  • Users express a great deal of interest in non-text resources – from research data to audio-visual assets – libraries should explore how to bring non-text resources to users
  • Students are irritated by ‘repeated sign-ins’
  • Social is becoming the norm – conversation, recommendations and reviews

Users of the following university libraries were surveyed: University of Glasgow; University of Hull; University of Keele; London South Bank University; Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh; Queen’s University, Belfast; and the Wellcome Library. The full survey and report can be downloaded here.