Between December 2016 and February 2017, the Texas State Library distributed a survey and organized two focus groups about the library technology that public libraries are using, the kinds of technology training you need to enhance your tech skills, and what kinds of technology dreams you have for your library and for your community.
We asked a lot of questions and received so much useful information; your feedback has already helped guide some of the decisions we’ve made for the coming year. As we continue to process all of your feedback, you can be sure we will share with you all what we are working on. To view some of the results visually in charts, maps, and graphs you can download the survey results here: TXPubLibSurvey-ResultsBlog (PDF).
To set the stage, we heard from just about 1/3 of all public libraries in Texas (about 174 total). Though we didn’t hear from everyone, the responses we did receive were representative of the percentage of libraries of difference sizes in the state (see the PDF file above for a detailed comparison). The responses were also very evenly distributed from regions across the state.
So, without further ado, here’s what we heard:
- You feel okay about your current I.T. support arrangement at your library. Most of the responses were either Good or Fair, with a few on either end. Libraries serving populations under 25,000 are more likely to be unsatisfied with their I.T. support, but larger libraries also struggled with their I.T. support.
- Your I.T. needs are met through a multitude of ways. The most common combination was to have a full-time staff person juggling I.T. among their other responsibilities while also working with a City/County I.T. person. Hiring a contractor or working with a volunteer helped many smaller libraries also meet their I.T. needs.
- Texas public library staff are of two different, almost equally split opinions on whether their library’s internet speed (either wired or WiFi) is fast enough for their patrons. Surprisingly, small libraries serving communities fewer than 25,000 responded affirmatively in higher percentages than libraries serving communities of 101,000 or more.
- Your top preferences for technology training were, by quite a large margin, a tie between Teaching Technology to Patrons and Finding Funding for Technology. The next two most popular areas for training were Protecting Patron Privacy & Library Security and Troubleshooting Technology Issues. All of these training topics were the most popular across all library sizes.
And here are two things that surprised us:
- Many of you responded that you wanted to offer classes to your communities however you felt constrained by staff time and expertise. Surprisingly this kind of technology teaching conflicts with what many of our focus group attendees relayed: even when patrons said they wanted classes, they didn’t attend; this was especially prevalent in many smaller libraries where they felt they spent a lot of energy planning class programs without a lot of uptake. We’ll continue to investigate a variety of options to help you meet your communities technology needs even with limited staff.
- While in-person technology assistance is high, you also help troubleshoot over the phone a lot! This can be especially tricky since you can’t see the other person’s screen. We’ll make sure to investigate how we can help support this type of tech assistance.
We also wanted to know a little about what kinds of technology you were using. Here’s what you told us:
Integrated Library Systems (ILS)
The most popular Integrated Library System (ILS) is Apollo Biblionix. The next most popular was Atriuum Booksystems.
Computer Operating Systems
Texas libraries overwhelming use Windows-based operating systems both for their patrons and for their staff. Most are running either Windows 7 or Windows 10.
Generally, the larger the population served, the more likely it was for the library to have patrons manage their own printing needs using a print management system. Over ¾ of smaller libraries serving communities of 25k or fewer responded that they manage the printing needs of their patrons manually.
Managing patron computer use
Libraries of all sizes here in Texas implement computer time management software, however based on survey responses, the general trend is that libraries in larger communities tend to implement computer time management software while smaller communities (serving 25k or fewer) tend to use a paper log to assign and keep track of patron computer use.
Technology for patron use
Texas libraries provide many different types of technology for patron use but the three most common and most basic technologies that libraries implement are: public computers, printing, and WiFi access. A close fourth technology is scanning; lending laptop computers/tablets is a distant fifth most popular technology offered in libraries.
Just over 80% of responding libraries provide Ebooks to their patrons. The most commonly mentioned platforms and vendors were Overdrive, 3M Cloud Library, TotalBoox and Odilo. Over one third of smaller libraries serving populations under 5,000 responded that they were not currently providing any kind on-demand downloadable or streaming services.
Social media use
Texas public libraries use a multitude of social media platforms to communicate with their patrons, however Facebook was the most popular with over 90% of libraries of all sizes responding that they maintained a Facebook presence for their library. Nearly 40% of libraries use Twitter, almost 30% use Instagram and just over 20% use Pinterest. YouTube was a close fifth with 18% of libraries responding that they also used this service.
Providing Technology Help
You provide technology help to patrons in a variety of ways, with one-on-one assistance first-come, first-served taking the number one spot. Over half of you provide help via phone. Appointments, classes, and E-mail follow as the third, fourth, and fifth most common ways you provide technology help.
Your most frequent patrons questions revolve around basic technology questions like using email, printing, downloading ebooks, filling in online forms and applications, logging into the WiFi, as well as using and troubleshooting their devices.
Your Technology Ideas
When it comes to what technology ideas you would like to implement given no constraints to time or money, your answers varied from things like getting high speed WiFi access, installing digital media labs with green screens, computer classes on all kinds of technology topics, upgrading your current technology, and adding makerspaces and robotics programs.
You are also so curious about how libraries of your size were finding funding to maintain and upgrade your technology and how your colleagues are staying up to date on technology trends when technology changes so quickly. You also wanted to know what their best practices were in lending and sharing technology with the community, training library staff, and running makerspaces and other hands-on technology programs.
In coming months, we’ll be diving into these answers and what we heard from our focus group participants to better understand what we can do to help you realize these ideas. This is just the beginning!
Questions or comments on the survey? Great! Connect with us this Thursday, May 11th at either 10AM or 2PM and share your thoughts. At either time that you decide, click on the following link to join us: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/295620789. You will need headphones or audio speakers to participate. You may also call in at 1 (872) 240-3311; when prompted, use the following access code: 295-620-789. Just an FYI, this is not a webinar and does not carry any CE credit. This is an opportunity for you to ask questions or share ideas! Hope to hear from you on Thursday!