Clare People Getting More Than Ever Out of the Library

Clare Champion, Friday, 31st January 2003

The public library in county Clare continues to be a major attraction for the people of the county. The results of a recent nationwide Public Library User Survey show that adult library users in county Clare visit their libraries more often than their counterparts around the country. They also use the Internet service more frequently than those in other counties. When asked what they did when they visited the library on the day of the survey, 55% stated that they borrowed, renewed or returned materials (this is much lower than the national average of 82.3% - reflecting the fact that the library service in county Clare is so much more than a book borrowing facility). Some 24% of people said that they looked for information on something, 14% read a newspaper or magazine, 41% used the Internet (compared to the national average of 17%), 16% studied or read books in the library and 33% of people just browsed - obviously each library visit is used for more than one purpose. This shows the wide range of purposes for which public libraries are used and the extent to which the library is viewed as a relaxing and non-threatening environment in which to browse, study or read a book or newspaper. The use of the library as as information and communication centre is obvious from the number of people reporting that they used the library to access information or to use the Internet for email or research.

End of year figures for 2002 show that usage of the Internet facility countywide has been an incredible success. A total of 120,383 hours of Internet access were booked in 2002, which was an increase of 65% over the previous year. When asked in the survey how often they visited the library, 29% of users reported that they do so more than once a week. The national average was only 19%, and the nearest authority to Clare was Tipperary with 24% of users reporting that they visit the library more than once a week. A further 22.5% of Clare users stated that they visit their local library 'about once a week'.

An indication of the high level of esteem which people have for the Clare Library service is evident from the survey. The percentage of users rating specific aspects of the service as either very good or good is as follows: overall service 92%; hours of opening 72%; books and other materials 71%; time waiting for service 94%; staff helpfulness 96%; children's services 91%; computers 89%; and information/enquiry services 93%.

End of year figures confirm that the core services offered by the library continue to improve. Over the past two years the number of books issued increased by 10%, while registered readership increased by 4%. The de Valera library, Ennis, and Ennistymon Branch Library were the star performers, with an increase of 11% in books issued in Ennis and a 15% increase in Ennistymon over the last two years. There were also 295,000 visits to the library website at during the year (the library expects to have reached a total of 1,000,000 visitors to the site by next May.

Reflecting the high concentration of Internet public access PCs in the Clare public library system, of those who use the Internet facilities 37.4% do so more than once a week (compared to the national average of 22.6%) and a further 22.5% do so about once a week. Some 81% of Internet users utilise the service for email purposes and 66% use it for research or study purposes. Sixteen percentage of those surveyed claimed that they were not members of the library, with 50% of users in the Local Studies Centre and 25% of those in the de Valera library not being library members. County Clare had the highest percentage in the country of people using the library who were not registered members.

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