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March 09, 2007



I'm not a librarian in the UK, but one hypothesis might be that there's something here that doesn't have anything to do with the libraries themselves. Such as: students don't have enough places elsewhere on campus where they can settle to work, meet, etc.
In Europe campuses tend to be less comfortable, smaller, etc. In France, dorms are a disgrace and students often choose to rent a room in town, away from campus. Libraries could benefit from this: people come because there's no other building to go to except for classes.
So it could be that they use the building a lot, even so their degree of satisfaction with the collections or the services is not that good.


I am a librarian in the UK. I work in a further education/community college library which is very well-used by students requiring PC access. In fact, that's probably the main reason why our library is well-used, in spite of our efforts to promote everything else we have to offer.

I agree with nicomo's comment above - our students really don't have many places to go. Plus, they are a slightly different demographic than you would find in higher education - our students start at age 14 right up to silver surfer age, so it's nigh on impossible to try to get people to "shh". Hence, we don't. Our students tend not to be using the library for academic research - they want to check sports websites or myspace or email, and as much as we try to change this, we also have to accept that without the PC access, we'd be a much less popular college resource. The truth is that we wouldn't survive for long if we attempted to enforce draconian stereotypes, and our library works (in terms of good borrowing and door stats and positive feedback) because of our inclusive focus.

I'd say that Cambridge and Glasgow, as long-established and traditional institutions, are more likely to have a serious academic atmosphere in their libraries - it's what many students might want. On the other hand, universities like Glasgow Caledonian, and the Glasgow School of Art have fantastic library resources and a very contemporary approach to resource provision.

I suppose if you're surveying students about library provision, they're bound to say that they want more. More spaces for socialising, more PCs, more DVDs. And so it goes. My own library conducts regular user surveys and encourages feedback, particularly because we're involved in a new build project and will have the opportunity to fix some of the problems that students are currently unhappy with. Many UK institutions are struggling in old buildings that may have been fit for purpose 40 years ago, but have been unable to keep up as time goes on. We are also in a precarious position in some cases, when management teams are looking for ways of cutting their budgets.

Incidentally, yes we do have e-resources :) The universities that I attended had excellent provision in this area. It's a question of how well-used these facilities are though, for many library managers trying to stretch their budgets as far as they can. We spend a lot on e-resources and journals, and promote them endlessly, but unfortunately this doesn't always lead to increased interest from students, and sometimes you have to make hard decisions about spending money on something that will actually be used.


Brian, if you look at the data in our Perceptions report, you will see that the respondents from the UK pretty consistently are less satisfied with their libraries and their collections. Full report here: http://www.oclc.org/reports/2005perceptions.htm

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