Users consider library services increasingly important

The National Library of Finland coordinated a customer survey for users of research and special libraries as well as public libraries in 2010. The first national online questionnaire was conducted in 2008.

The national mapping of customer satisfaction was implemented as an online questionnaire in all university and university of applied sciences libraries – except for the libraries of the University of Turku and Aalto University which use the international Lib- Qual survey – as well as in 25 special libraries and all public libraries.

The number of responses rose by 56% compared to the previous survey. A total of 34,300 library customers – 39% from public libraries, 39% from libraries of universities of applied sciences, 18% from university libraries and 4% from special libraries – participated in the survey.

Almost all the respondents visit libraries regularly. Of the public libraries’ respondents, 91% visit a library at least once a month. For the respondents in university and polytechnic libraries, the corresponding figure was 87%, and for the special libraries’ respondents 55%.

In addition to mapping the user habits the questionnaire measures customer satisfaction regarding materials, electronic services and the library as an environment for relaxation or study. The survey also measures the impact of library services. Almost all library services were considered fairly or extremely important. Customers in public, university and university of applied sciences libraries considered shortages of materials to be the main service- related problem.

Municipal libraries’ respondents also called attention to the suitability of the opening hours. For their part, the users of special libraries and scientific libraries expressed a need for clearer instructions regarding the use of electronic materials.

The most important impact of library services in all research library sectors was that the libraries had made it easier for users to find the materials that they were looking for. In the public library sector, over 80% of the users agreed that the library services had supported their cultural and literary interests. Around 80% of the university and university of applied sciences library users thought that libraries had helped to improve the quality of their work and studies, the same was true for 71% of the special library respondents.

In all libraries, the staff ’s willingness to provide assistance was one of the most important factors affecting the quality of service. In terms of their service attitude, libraries were assessed as having succeeded as well or even slightly better than two years ago.

Overall, library services were assessed as being fairly successful and slightly improved. On a scale of 1 to 5, the opinions of library services’ importance fell within a range of 4.6 – 4.7, compared to the range of 4.4 – 4.6 registered in the survey conducted two years ago.

The contents and the structure of the survey have been developed in cooperation with the library sectors, while the National Library has taken care of the implementation and outsourcing of the technical execution of the survey. The National Library also helps in marketing the survey to end-users by offering ready-made information materials and press releases and by paying the costs.

After the results of the latest survey were analysed and published, the National Library and the library network started discussions on the future needs of libraries and their evaluation. The impact assessment section of the surveyis considered one of the most important. The questions and statements measuring the impact of the library services will be developed in the Impact Evaluation Working Group set up by the National Library in which all library sectors are represented. The surveys,     the statistics and impact evaluation will be discussed and developed as a whole during the next year in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Culture and the libraries themselves.

Päivi Jokitalo
National Library Network Services

Freelance Library Specialist