How do you describe a public library?

Background
The concept for this project had its genesis at the Standing Committee’s meeting at the 2012 IFLA Congress in Helsinki when we were discussing the papers that had been given over the course of the past week. It was noted that certain words had consistently  been used by presenters to describe public libraries and this led to a decision to ask the wider library and information community what words or concepts immediately come to mind when thinking  about a public library.


This was never meant to be an in-depth or scientifically accurate survey. Rather it was designed as a vox pop to give the Standing Committee some direction for its marketing and advocacy campaign. We created the survey using Survey Monkey and distributed the link via IFLA e-lists and through the networks of Standing Committee Members. We had 1,234 replies from colleagues in 13 countries. Regardless of which country the respondent hails from the same words have prominence with books, community, access, knowledge, reading and space being firm favourites.
The survey closed on 8 February 2013.

The Next Step

In 2013 it was agreed that it would be a great idea to expand the project to gain a community perspective and to map how well this matched the words used by library professionals. Once again Survey Monkey was called into play, with the added attraction of having the survey available in 7 languages. Library users from 21 countries across 6 continents responded to our request with 500 plus completing the survey. The results mirrored those of library professionals with books, community, free and a range of words which can be encompassed by the word ‘inclusive’. While there were slight national variations in a ‘quick and dirty’ survey like this it could generally be said that the words to describe public libraries were universal and that most of these are based in our contribution to social capital

Public Libraries

Last update: 26 February 2016