Does size matter? In-library study of two Canadian public library branches

Publication Date15 Nov 2019
AuthorJohn Shepherd,Larissa Petrillo,Allan Wilson
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,HR in libraries,Library strategy,Library promotion
Does size matter? In-library
study of two Canadian public
library branches
John Shepherd
School of Business, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, Canada
Larissa Petrillo
Faculty of Arts, Kwantlen Polytechnic University,
Surrey, Canada, and
Allan Wilson
University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, Canada
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to summarize a library use study of the central and community
branches of a Canadian public library. An exit survey documented the in-branch activities of users as a part
of a library strategic planning process. Survey results were used in combination with branch statistics, postal
code circulation statistics, neighbourhood demographics and other data sources to document the in-library
use of the two facilities.
Design/methodology/approach Questionnaires were administered to library users 15 years of age or
older at the exits of the central and community branches. The survey collected data on their activities and
services used during their current visit. Additional sources such as branch-level statistics, furniture tally
sheets, photographs, Canada Census data and circulation analysis by patron postal code and lending branch
were used during the analysis stage.
Findings Both branches are heavily used but in different ways. Branch circulation and gate count per
square foot of floor space were high relative to other Canadian libraries. Patron visits to the community
branch were short in duration, in line with previous public library studies. User visit duration and in-library
activities within the main branch somewhat resembled those of the central branch of a larger library system
but likely for different reasons.
Research limitations/implications The study was exploratory. Data were collected during two
coinciding days of library operation, a Thursday and a Saturday, and may not be representative of the
underlying population. The study was limited in scope as it was a community service project for
undergraduate university students.
Practical implications Branch library use surveys, in combination with library statistics and
demographics, can provide useful insights concerning in-library patron behaviour when the use of
ethnographic techniques is not feasible.
Originality/value The study explored differences and similarities in user behaviour in two types of library
facilities, a central and a community branch. Few published studies make such a direct comparison. The
study explored the perceived benefits received by patrons from public library use and incorporated branch
statistics, circulation analysis and Census data.
Keywords Public library, Data analysis, Library users, Circulation analysis, In-library use,
Library use studies
Paper type Case study
1. Introduction
During its 20192023 strategic planning process, Richmond Public Libraries commissioned
a user study of its Brighouse and Steveston branches. The management team was
particularly interested in how residents used its Steveston facility, a community branch
judged as a priority for renovation.
Richmond is a city of 200,000 people located on several islands at the mouth of the Fraser
River on Canadas West Coast. A suburb of Vancouver, the city has the highest proportion
of immigrants in Canada: 60 per cent according to the 2016 Canada Census. Richmond
Library Management
Vol. 41 No. 1, 2020
pp. 1-13
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/LM-08-2019-0058
Received 21 August 2019
Revised 1 October 2019
Accepted 1 October 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Study of two
public library

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