The social role of libraries

News : 7 November 2018

Libraries are not just book depositories. Recent research conducted by City of Wanneroo Libraries using the Culture Counts platform confirms that they are critical conduits of culture, learning and community engagement. As libraries continue to evolve it is important to reflect on and reassert their importance within our communities.

A library’s value is difficult to prove without evaluation. Simon Gray, Acting Coordinator of Library Services at City of Wanneroo Libraries commented on why they conduct research, “We conduct an annual library survey through Culture Counts and this gives us a clear indication of the value and impact of our services on the community". 

City of Wanneroo Libraries use a selection of standard measures to evaluate the value and outcomes of their services.

“Using the standardised dimensions we are able to analyse, among others, responses on how safe, connected and relevant our libraries are. We are also able to identify what would entice non-users to visit our libraries, information that will be used to inform our strategic direction moving forward.”

By using a consistent language the libraries at the City of Wanneroo are contributing to a sector-wide view that more broadly demonstrates the impact public libraries have on communities.

“It is vital that we evidence the impact libraries have on the lives of our community to City Leaders and Elected Members. The annual library survey conducted through Culture Counts enables us to capture this information accurately." In particular, the 'Insight Report' component allowed the library to understand where their strengths lie in comparison to the wider library sector using a set of standardised dimensions for outcomes measurement. "[The Insight Report] enables us to showcase areas of strength and highlight areas that may need additional focus", said Gray.  

The research findings indicate that Wanneroo Library's users are made up of a broad demographic of people from within the community itself. The library is predominantly used for its collection and technology access, however social activities and educational offerings are consistently sought by members and non-members of the community.

“We are moving towards more community-led services and the annual library survey gave us the opportunity to evaluate what type of programs and activities would be of interest to our community. We found that overall the library membership had a strong interest in learning related events such as author talks and digital learning and that social and educational learning activities scored highly.”

Libraries are places where the local community gather to explore, interact and imagine; this is central to building and supporting local culture. These institutions have wide-ranging objectives including increasing quality of life, facilitating lifelong learning and celebrating cultural diversity. Libraries, as a ‘core’ council and community service, are an important cultural resource and champion the idea that every community is a good place to be.

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