Where Are Our Users?

(LITA President’s Program)

We Are Here. Where Are Our Users?
Cathy De Rosa
OCLC
VP, Marketing and Library Services

John Horrigan
Pew Internet & American Life Project

[My comments are in brackets. I might have to change batteries halfway through the program. Just a warning.]

Where are the connections and disconnections between us and our users?

Cathy goes first:
It is easy to miss the things that are all around us. [We are immune to them because we see them each day.] Cathy spends some time showing us some of the things that have come from the OCLC environmental scan. Only about 1% of users start on our web pages when looking for something. In 1950, a similar study of library use showed that only 1% of the people said they would ask a librarian about a topic. Not much has changed in 50 years.

For real change, there has to be behavioral change, technology infrastructure, and economics to support the change. The behavioral change is the most important for librarians. Users are using technology to do things differently, for modifying things that they own.

Reference transactions are dropping drastically in all ARL libraries. However, people still want to use our institutions and they want to borrow our books.

OCLC asked college students: What are you doing less? 40% said they watched television less and 39% said the use the library less. They do not want to do passive things. Libraries are still about books. [and books are a passive form of information.]

What makes information worthwhile? How do they decide it is worthwhile? 86% of respondents said they just “know.”

Our users serve themselves, they self publish, they are smart, and they are sharing. [They are smart and we need to start listening to our users. They already know what they want. How can we give it to them?]

[I change batteries and we change speakers.]

John speaks:
High speed internet use is up and has a direct impact with how much time people spend online.

Digital information helps people by reducing uncertainty in people’s lives. People are more informed about their health, about their healthcare, and use the internet for information that can help them make better decisions about things in their lives.

Digital information empowers people. People who are more informed are also more likely to vote and be engaged.

Digital information also helps people to be creative. [As Cathy said, people do not want to be passive with their information anymore. Anyone can be an artist, a singer, a writer, or a director online. We have created entire worlds online that allow us to achieve a level of creativity which the “real world” has never offered us.]

The internet supplants traditional media. Does the Long Tail thicken the leading edge? Will there be a greater demand for research skills and the network speed to access it? [Great question! Where can libraries step in? What services can we offer that capitalizes on this? As I said before, we need to leverage our virtual presence to BE A PRESENCE on the web.]

Information delivery is now faster and the cost is going down. The internet is imbedded into people’s lives and the things they use. Network and broadband speed will grow.

What does this mean for libraries? The new demands are still within the traditional role of libraries. Libraries should build on our strengths to adapt.

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