Canadian Urban Libraries Council/Conseil des Bibliothèques Urbaines du Canada

Research

CULC/CBUC Space Use Study

Report prepared by Kim Silk for the Canadian Urban Libraries Council / Conseil des bibliothèques urbaines du Canada – December 2017

Executive Summary

This study was commissioned by the Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) in early 2015 as one of a series of three research studies. This study examines how library space is used in three Canadian urban library systems: Brampton Library, Calgary Public Library, and Markham Public Library. The study, carried out in late 2016, posed two research questions:

  1. How are people using the different spaces in the library?
  2. When they are in the library, what are they doing there?

In total, nine branches were studied: three in Brampton, five in Calgary, and one in Markham.

Key Findings

Detailed findings for the observation survey and the patron survey are provided in the “Findings” section of this report. A summary of key findings is provided here.

Libraries are welcoming places
Libraries continue to be welcoming places. The majority of patrons feel welcome when they visit the library (96%) and find the library staff helpful (91%). The majority of patrons (69%) find the library furniture to be comfortable. 1% reported the need for more and improved furniture.
Patron expectations are being met
The majority of patrons find the library useful: 90% report accomplishing what they intended to when visiting the library, and 85% report being able to find what they were looking for. Most patrons are accomplishing this without help from staff (60%), while many interacted with staff (35%) during their visit.
Libraries are social places
Patrons are interacting with staff, and with other patrons, throughout the day: 40% in the evening, 31% in the afternoon, and 24% in the morning. When patrons are talking in groups, they are both socializing and studying.
Managing noise-level expectations is challenging
There is often conflict between patrons who expect the library to be quiet, and patrons who are using the library to socialize, engage with their children, and participate in programs. While 14% of patrons described the library as quiet and peaceful, 13% reported the library as too noisy. Loud and quiet activities are taking place throughout the day, and with very little difference in these activities between genders.
Traditional library activities are still popular
Libraries continue to be places where people seek quiet activities, including browsing the collection, reading, writing and studying: 25% of patrons reported that they use the library to study. Patrons continue to depend on the library as a place to borrow books; 36% of patrons reported borrowing a book as the primary reason for visiting the library. 3% of patrons indicated the need for more study space.
BYO device is the new normal
Handheld devices and laptop computers are common possessions patrons bring with them to the library: 72% of adults and 21% of teens have a handheld device with them at the library. 56% of adults and 33% of teens have a laptop with them at the library.

Read the full report: CULC/CBUC Space Use Study