Researchers’ Use of Academic Libraries

library book shelvesA new report has been published by the Research Information Network (RIN) and the Consortium of Research Libraries (CURL): Researchers’ Use of Academic Libraries and their Services [pdf format]. This is based on information gathered from more than 2,000 UK researchers and 300 librarians. After being somewhat critical in an earlier post about the RIN’s Researchers and Discovery Services report, I feel honour-bound to record here that this report is much more comprehensive and well-written. Its authors are Sheridan Brown and Alma Swan of Key Perspectives Ltd. The report covers a number of areas, including the impact of digital services, problems of attracting enough funding, communication between library staff and researchers, and changing patterns of use.

Archive services within academic libraries get a number of mentions, with the interesting statistic that:

Archives are rated “very useful” by 50% of arts and humanities researchers and special collections by 46%. By comparison the figures for life science researchers are 10% and 8%.

Really? 10% of life scientists find archives “very useful”? Wow!

The report also noted that:

Most researchers use digital finding aids to locate both digital and print-based resources. Print finding aids are used by very few researchers, and these are mainly in the arts and humanities. This highlights the need for libraries to ensure that they provide online high-quality metadata for their holdings, and that they address cataloguing backlogs. Information resources that cannot be found electronically may well be overlooked, since few researchers will invest the time required to track down items that cannot be quickly be identified using digital finding aids.

And in the same vein:

Libraries have made significant efforts to optimise the visibility and usage of their archival or special collection material through digitisation programmes. Feedback from researchers is very positive, but many information resources that could be useful to researchers remain under-used currently, mainly because they exist only in hardcopy or are inadequately catalogued.


…material that is digitised and for which there is easily-available and accurate metadata will be visible and usable by scholars. What remains in print may well be sought out, but probably only if it is digitally catalogued. Indeed, some researchers as well as librarians pointed out that more use would be made of library holdings overall