From a Cup of Coffee to Concrete Research for Academic Libraries

October 2, 2015

Cover of "We Love the Library, but We Live on the Web: Findings around How Academic Library Users View Online Resources and Services."

Innovative spends a great deal of time researching the needs of libraries and library staff but rarely has access to the consumers of library services. As a result, we were delighted when an opportunity arose to support and participate in a project to gather information about the way academic library users discover, access, and interact with online resources.

I met for coffee with David Kay from Sero Consulting in June 2014. David and I have worked together a number of times and keep in touch pretty regularly. On this occasion, David told me about some work he had conducted with the University of Manchester library to examine how their users perceive their online library resources. The findings of this project were compelling, and we agreed that it would be an interesting exercise to see whether the findings at Manchester held true for other UK academic institutions.

A couple weeks later, I put out a call to the European Innovative Users Group and received responses from seven Innovative customers who were willing to participate: University of Glasgow, University of Hull, University of Keele, London South Bank University, Queen Margaret University, University of Edinburgh, Queen’s University Belfast, and Wellcome Library.

To utilize the work done at the University of Manchester and to provide a true basis for comparison, the project used the same survey with some small amendments to reflect local practices at these institutions. Following a workshop in October 2014 and further refinements, the surveys ran between November 2014 and February 2015.

The body of evidence generated by the surveys amounts to just under 3,000 completed responses, including more than 3,200 free-text answers to the questions about the digital/online library of the future and what could be done to improve access to and use of online resources.

Sero Consulting conducted a detailed analysis of the survey responses, including reading and categorizing all the free-text responses. Analysis of the responses and findings has been published in the comprehensive report “We Love the Library, but We Live on the Web: Findings around How Academic Library Users View Online Resources and Services.”

Some of the results may surprise you. For example, the term digital native may have outlived its usefulness. If you have any questions about our findings, please write me at


Molly Hart, student engagement coordinator, with student Brandon Vear at Columbia College’s Banned Books Week Read-Out.

Columbia College Banned Books Week Read-Out

Photos and video from annual event

Library of Congress Reading Room for the Blind

The ADA and Inclusion in Libraries

Libraries have been and continue to be the champions for access