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The purpose of this paper is to support public library advocates and planners by establishing who uses libraries, why, what services they most value, and how they see them…
The purpose of this paper is to support public library advocates and planners by establishing who uses libraries, why, what services they most value, and how they see them developing; identifying who is not using libraries and the barriers, and suggesting solutions; and providing case studies of exemplary public library services.
Nearly 10,000 Victorians and every Victorian public library was involved. Quantitative and qualitative data were gathered from focus groups with library users, non‐users and staff; interviews with community leaders; a random telephone survey; and an online survey of users. The statistics are complemented by documented comments from hundreds of participants.
The paper finds that Victorians place significant value in the availability of free library services in their communities. Public libraries impact powerfully on strengthening their communities, especially through information provision, access to information technology and development of computing skills, lifelong learning and education, and expansion of social networks.
Findings will be useful to everyone who advocates for public libraries. The methodology could serve as a model for others seeking to measure the social value of public libraries. Data specific to individual Victorian library services will be useful in planning those services.
This is the most comprehensive research of its kind undertaken in Australia – a “landmark” project.