On the use of libraries

Added by Stephane Goldstein on 01 April 2007 12:26

­The RIN will shortly be publishing the results of its extensive survey of researchers? use and perceptions of academic library services. The report will be published on our website ? keep an eye open for the announcement under ?what?s new? ? but it may be useful, as a prelude to this, to highlight one or two interesting trends.

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The report will point to continuing use and appreciation of library services by researchers across the discipline spectrum, albeit with differing perceptions about how such services might evolve in the medium to long term. Although many such services continue to be heavily used, the same cannot always be said about libraries as buildings. The notion of libraries as a physical space has clearly changed significantly in recent years, and many institutions are looking to reinvent this physical presence by presenting (and designing) the library as a networking environment. Returns from the survey suggest that the idea has not yet really caught on, with one significant exception: the use of the library as means of meeting sexual partners.

­In this respect, the report will point to a clear increase in the use of library buildings for such a purpose. In 2001, 12% of surveyed researched claimed to come to the library at least once a month to seek to meet a sexual partner; by 2006, this figure had increased to 23%. Disciplinary differences are very striking: the 2006 figure rises to 32% for life scientists, but only 13% for social scientists. There are also differences across career stages: 29% for postdocs, and a nonetheless respectable (and perhaps surprising) 8% for professors. Unfortunately, the survey does not provide a male/female breakdown.

Other aspects of the report will also underline different viewpoints across disciplines, but the above represents a particularly striking example. In this light, the report will make for very revealing reading.


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