The use of bibliotek.dk and some implications

bibliotek.dk is a great step forward
During the last year bibliotek.dk has been a hot topic among the staff of Danish public l i b raries. The aim of this article is to take a closer look at some of the points of this discussion and to describe how we have organised and experienced the use of bibliotek. dk at one of the major Danish public libraries.
Background
Det nordjyske Landsbibliotek (NJL) is the county library of Northern Jutland (total population: 494,000) as well as the municipal library of Aalborg (population: 161,000).

A long-standing – but not particularly useful – argument among public and academic libraries has been which users are theirs (students?) and ours (the general public?). The users themselves tend to have a more pragmatic approach to libraries, they use both. When we did a user survey a few years ago it turned out that about 35% of the users of the main library were students at universities and other institutions of further education.

Aalborg has a university (student population around 12,000) which is situated some kilometres from the town centre (with the main library) as well as from the parts of the city whe re most students tend to live (with branch libraries).We also have further education colleges for teachers, kindergarten teachers, nurses,midwives, ergo- and physiotherapists etc. – even the only branch of The Royal Danish School of Library and Information Science.

Most studies these days are based on a fairly small core curriculum (based on books the students are supposed to buy) and an ever increasing amount of projects based on (library and other) materials which the students are supposed to find during their own research.

Setting up the individual parts of bibliotek. dk NJL chose only to accept requests for books and sheet music which we do not possess and for articles in newspapers and periodicals. After the first six months we stopped receiving requests for articles, they were comparatively few, but engineered a lot of work which did not fit into the daily routines.

Requests for material that we do possess are automatically directed to our online catalogue.

Year one after bibliotek.dk
By the end of November 2001 the public libraries had received just over 295,000 requests while the academic libraries had received just over 48,000. At NJL we have received just over 8,000, but the number of ILL-requests at the reference desk is going down.

However, it is clear that we will have an increase in the number of titles borrowed from other libraries, but we do not yet know how big this will be. All requests have this far been received at the main library which gives us a good picture of who the users are and what they are requesting.

The users have to fill in their names, address,social security number and which branch of the library they want to collect the material from. Twice last year (March and September/October) we have been taking a closer look at a number of requests. The pattern of use has not changed much during the year. Just over 90% of the requests are for non-fiction. Just over half of these are requests for books in languages other than Danish, most of them English, but also Norwegian, Swedish, German and a few in other European languages.

Books from all subject areas are requested, but with a preference for social sciences, literature and IT. Most of the requests seem to be on an academic level and intended for students.

That most of the users may be students is confirmed by the fact that 60% of the users are between the ages of 20 to 29 and another 20% between 30 and 40. (From the titles of the books requested it seems probable that even a large minority of the last group are students). It seems quite clear that students are over-represented among the users of bibliotek.dk.We do sometimes think that bibliotek.dk should be financed by the Ministry of Education instead of the Ministry of Culture!

In the spring only 10% of the users were over 40 years of age compared to 17% in the autumn, whereas the number of users under the age of 20 fell from 7% to 1.5%. That the number of young users was so low in September/ October is probably due to the fact that there were no major papers to be handed in at A-level at that time of the year.

In the spring only 40% of the users were female, in September this had increased to 53%, a fact we are unable to explain. It is clear that people prefer to pick up their books as close to their home as possible, we can see this from their address compared to that of the branch library from which they want to pick them up.

Some users order books regularly, and whereas some only order one or two, others order up to fifteen or twenty at a time. In the near future we will take a closer look at how many of these are actually collected.We do have a feeling that quite a few requests are made ‘just in case’. Sometimes the same book is ordered in several languages or several editions of the same text is ordered. It is hard to tell when this again is ‘just in case’ and when the users are actually unable to read a bibliographic description. As a rule only one of the requests will be sent on as an ILL-request, but it is often necessary to contact the user to decide which one he or she really wants.

Every now and again we get the same requests from the same person within a few days; this seems to be partly because they have forgotten what they requested two nights ago and partly because they think that something must have gone wrong if the book has not turned up within three or four days! Again it is necessary to contact the user.

Young people are resourceful, they often have access to two or more libraries and therefore request the same title from more than one library and are rather surprised when told that this may mean that they are queuing with themselves.

Not only are we experiencing an increase in the number of requests that we pass on but there is also an increase, probably around 20%, in the number of requests that we receive from other libraries. For many years NJL has been the Danish public library lending the greatest amount of books to other libraries (around 70,000 vols. last year), a position we seem to be able to hold this year as well. Part of the increase is due to the fact that we have started lending our CDs, but there is also an in – crease in the number of re-quests for printed material. It is impossible to figure out how many of these have originated as requests from end users via bibliotek.dk, but we can see that an increasing number is coming directly via bob, the part of bibliotek. dk from which libraries can send their ILL-requests. The requests seem to be for all types of books, but again books for further education and on various aspects of IT seem to be most in demand.

The other day a woman in her late thirties walked into the library with some prints from bibliotek.dk – she wanted to know what we did with her requests and said ‘This is fantastic – for the first time since I left university I’m really able to see what’s published in my area and to get at it!’ No doubt she is right, bibliotek.dk is a great step forward – even if users as well as librarians sometimes find it a bit frustrating to cope with.

Team manager Det nordjyske Landsbibliotek, Denmark