Libraries Need to Go Digital to Stay Relevant

The Majority of Americans ‰ÛÒ and 7 in 10 Cardholders ‰ÛÒ Happy with their Local Library. A strong majority of Americans believe libraries need to go digital to stay relevant. It‰Ûªs particularly good news that 55% of Americans are extremely or very satisfied with their local libraries. Satisfaction is especially high (as one might hope) among those with library cards (70%), but that‰Ûªs not to say Americans don‰Ûªt have any recommendations to improve library services.

While reading a book used to mean turning a page, for many it now means swiping a screen, and a vast majority of Americans (81%) say libraries need to offer digital content to stay relevant. This belief is particularly strong among Baby Boomers and Gen Xers (86% & 83% vs. 75% Millennials & 77% Matures).

These are some of the results of The Harris Pollå¨ of 2,212 U.S. adults surveyed online between August 12 ‰ÛÒ 17, 2015.

Going digital

Libraries are responding with a variety of digital offerings, but just how many Americans are making use of them? Over two thirds of Americans (68%) believe all of a library‰Ûªs content should be available online to borrow digitally. When library cardholders are asked about the products their libraries offer, majorities say they can borrow digital audio books (66%; with 18% using/​borrowing) and eBooks (63%; with 23% using/​borrowing).

Fewer say they can borrow magazines (42%; with 9% using/​borrowing), music (37%; with 10% using/​borrowing) and movies/​shows (36%; with 10% using/​borrowing) digitally.

  • Men are more than twice as likely as women to have used or borrowed digital movies/​shows (14% vs. 7%), music (14% vs. 6%), and magazines (13% vs. 5%) from their local library.
  • Those with children in the household are more likely than those without to have borrowed each type of digital product tested.

Meanwhile, large percentages of cardholders (ranging from 29% for digital audio books to 53% for both digital music and movies/​shows) indicate they‰Ûªre not sure if their library offers each of these items digitally, while few explicitly state their library is lacking each (ranging from 5% for digital audio books to 10% for both digital music and movies/​shows).

Desires of the digitally deprived

Digitally deprived cardholders (those who say their library doesn‰Ûªt offer the aforementioned digital products) are most interested in their library offering digital or streaming movies/​show (43%) and eBooks (39%), followed by digital magazines (33%), streaming music (30%), and audio books (30%).

  • Millennials and Gen Xers without current access are more likely than both Baby Boomers and Matures to show interest in digital or streaming movies/​shows (59% & 50% vs. 32% & 15%) and music (46% & 36% vs. 19% & 9%).

Among those saying their libraries lack these digital offerings, those with children under 18 at home are more interested in each digital product compared to those without:

o Digital or streaming movies/​shows: 58% vs. 36%

o eBooks: 48% vs. 35%

o Digital magazines: 42% vs. 29%

o Digital or streaming music: 43% vs. 24%

o Digital audio books: 42% vs. 25%

Library usage

Over six in ten (63%) Americans say they have a library card (consistent with 2014‰Ûªs 64%), and these cardholders do tend to have some key demographic attributes:

  • Women are more likely than men are to have a library card (67% vs. 58%).
  • Library cards more prevalent among those who have completed higher levels of education (77% post grad, 68% college grad, 63% some college & 56% H.S. or less).
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, those in households with children are more likely to have a card compared to adults in childless households (68% vs. 60%).

Eight in ten cardholders have visited the library or used its services at least once in the past year (81%, up marginally from 78% in 2014). When asked the top reasons ‰ÛÒ from a provided list ‰ÛÒ for using the library over the past year, borrowing books (54%) is at the top of the list, followed distantly by borrowing DVDs/​videos (22%). Just over one in ten indicate they‰Ûªve gone in order to connect to the Internet with a library computer (12%).

But clearly libraries are about a lot more than what people can get from them: a vast majority of Americans (89%) agree that no matter how much content is available digitally, local libraries will always be an important community resource.

If you can't get your libraries to advertise their new digital offerings, then try to get your E‑reader sellers to cross-​promote with the libraries! AudienceSCAN found that 16.2% of consumers are already using E‑readers, so they could really benefit from knowing about digital materials at their libraries. But retailers could sell even more E‑readers to this crowd which needs to update, possibly? Or they might want to buy E‑readers for their kids or spouses after they've discovered all the FREE library options there are! 19% of E‑reader Users have kids aged 13 to 17 at home. In fact, 11.4% of users are planning to buy E‑readers in the next 12 months! And in the past 6 months, 27% have used mobile devices to compare pricing at a competitor while shopping.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports inåÊAdMall.

Courtney Huckabay
Courtney is the Editor for SalesFuel Today. She analyzes secondary customer research and our primary AudienceSCAN research. Courtney is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.