In rural areas public libraries may play a central role as a link between local communities and the larger world outside.
Through its Global Libraries programme, the Gates Foundation is supporting public libraries in many countries. Last year it financed an interesting survey of public library use in the rural areas of Poland.
Forty percent of the respondents had visited a library within the last 12 months. Three quarters had visioted a public library, while one quarter had visited other libraries – most often a school library. More than half of the youth had visited a public library.
The numbers were lower for middle-aged (30%) and older people (10-20%). Libraries were visited a bit more frequently by women than by men (32% vs. 27%).
- Nine out of ten visit libraries mainly to borrow books or magazines (91%)
- Half of the respondents (53%) also use books on the spot.
- One third use the library’s Internet connection (but nearly 60% of the young)
About one quarter of the respondents visit libraries to socialize with others. Thirty-six percent come to talk to the librarian or ask him/her about something. For older people, this number goes up to fifty percent. Only 12% of the visitors had participated in meetings organized in the library, however.
The average visit lasted about half an hour (33 minutes). The elderly spent more time – 51 minutes on the average.
Main library visitors spend more time in a library (38 minutes) than branch visitors (29 minutes), which indicates that the conditions of premises are better in main libraries. The longest visits are paid by people who participate in organized meetings (49 minutes on average), use computers or the Internet (45 minutes) or meet with someone (42 minutes).
- 25% of the rural and small town population live in towns,
- 43% in municipal villages,
- 14% in non-municipal villages with an available branch library, and
- 18% in nonmunicipal villages with no branch
Change in people’s lives
The Global Libraries program wants
libraries to design programs and activities destined to contribute to changes in peoples’ lives. This is achieved by deeply engaging stakeholders in program design,
The program puts great emphasis on collecting evidence that describes the contribution libraries make – whether through stakeholder perceptions, surveys, case studies, relevant statistics compiled by a third-party or government entity (e.g. labor and health statistics), or other methods.
- No. of libraries providing public access computing
- No. of workstations available in country/target region
- No. of physical visits to public libraries
- Workstation use rate
- No. of library staff trained under the GL grant
- No. of library users trained by GL program in information seeking / use of ICT
- Spending on public library services (GL and other)
- Users’ activities in the library / on computers
- State of training of public library staff
- No. of unique users of public access computing in public libraries
- No. of virtual visits
- Repeat patron usage
- User demographics
Areas of Impact – with examples:
- Libraries offer on-line reading programs
- People acquire skills at library
- Libraries refer people to relevant on-line information and services
- Users have improved health choices
Culture and Leisure
- Library become social center of community
Events and activities lead to community re-vitalization
- Librarians direct business people to relevant information
- Small businesses are more productive
- Librarians teach people to use e-mail
- Isolation of marginalized communities decreases
- Librarians teach people to access e-government services
- Improved citizen uptake of government services
- Planning for impact, assessing for sustainability. By Sandra Fried (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Maciej Kochanowicz (The Library Program, Poland) and Marcel Chiranov (Global Libraries, Romania). Paper for IFLA 2009.
- Public libraries – opinion, use, needs. Rural population and library users survey. Key Findings. MillwardBrown (market research agency). August 2008
The concept for “the library as a meeting place” was also analyzed.
49% of the respondents said that in their town there was no meeting place without alcohol (people living in towns where such place exists, i.e. 33% of the respondents, most often said that it was a day room, a community center or a catering outlet). …
It should be pointed out that the lack of such places represents a major shortcoming of the Polish countryside, because the only public places to meet with friends in rural areas, if any, are usually those in which alcohol is served (firehouses, sometimes bars or restaurants). There are no places such as those in big cities where people can meet and have no alcohol (cafes, shopping malls or fastfoods). In effect, young people often meet at a bus stop.
MillwardBrown, p. 8.