Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance
Building on from our previous article relating to library usage, we have undertaken further analysis of the national data from the Public Library Users Survey. Firstly, the vast majority of library visitors come on foot. However, we also note that this method of visiting is more popular among the young as well as those who live in areas of high deprivation, whereas older visitors show a preference for travelling by private transport, as do those who live in areas of low deprivation. In fact, those living in areas of high deprivation are almost twice as likely to use public transport as those who live in areas of low deprivation. Furthermore, those library visitors living in areas of low deprivation are on average travelling twice as far as their counterparts living in areas of high deprivation.
Over half of all visits are in connection with book borrowing, whilst slightly more than a third are in connection with seeking information, and just under a third are seeking to use a library computer. Just over one in ten partake in ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD), such as a laptop or tablet. The proportion of visitors bringing their own device has increased, albeit slightly, compared to 2012.
It would seem that libraries attract a more ethnically diverse audience compared to the UK population. Whilst some 78% of library users are white, amongst the population generally the figure is 86%. Furthermore, the library audience comprises a greater proportion of females (61%) than make up the UK population (51%). The average age of a library visitor is 50 and we find that library users are predominantly 'employed or self-employed, full- or part-time', with those who classify themselves as being retired being the second largest group.
From a deprivation perspective we find differences in audiences in relation to book borrowing, seeking information and usage of library computers. Essentially, those living in areas of low deprivation are increasingly predisposed toward borrowing books, whereas those living in areas of high deprivation are increasingly predisposed toward seeking information and/or using the library’s computer(s).
Overall some six in ten believe that the library has helped them with studying or learning. However, from a deprivation perspective we again see contrasts in response to the outcome questions by audience. For example, those living in areas of high deprivation claim that the library has helped with getting online and job seeking, whereas those living in areas of low deprivation say that the library has helped with health and well-being and retirement.