From researchers perspective: The Academic Library & The Hygiene Factor

An important part of a libraries development and well-being is to talk and listen to it surroundings now and then. Sure we know how to make great libraries but we don’t make them for ourselves – we make them for the library users (and future users). And that’s why it’s important that we just sit down and talk and listen to them – just like we do with the people we care about.

At The Copenhagen University Library we have over the last few years been using various approaches to pick our users brain. Lately we made a rather big qualitative survey (interviews with 30+ researchers) on the researchers information seeking behavior and need for library service. It was carried out at my library, The Faculty Library of Social Sciences, and along with a lot of relevant and valuable inside one point from the survey struck me as extra significant: The Library is characterized by ‘The Hygiene Factor’.

A good example on how the library is characterized by a certain amount of ‘Hygiene Factor’ is nearly every persons relationship with toilet paper; When it’s there you don’t think about it but when it’s missing you got a big problem. Same story with The Library seen from researchers perspective: it’s around, it’s provide you with different kinds of information resources and for researchers this a common part of the academic life they don’t think that much about… until it’s gone,; when the online catalog is down, when that essential journal you use in your research is suddenly unavailable, when the book you ordered don’t show up, when there is no librarian to call about these problems – then you notice that there is a library out there and it has an important function.

Something in common: The Library and Toilet Paper

So researchers feel the same way about our beloved institution as they do about toilet paper? Yep and what can we use this piece of information for? A great deal I think. First of all it’s super positive even though toilet paper is not that posh a buddy to be compared to at first thought. But think about it: toilet paper is a pretty essential need for everybody, the punker, the postman and the president – it’s for everybody, just like the library. Second it’s healthy for us librarians sometimes to be reminded that we are no necessary the center of the universe in our users mind – but that don’t mean that they don’t value our effort and function. Also it outlines what they really think is valuable bout the library: the information resources. We kind of knew that but it always nice to get’s things confirmed. Last but not least we, at The Faculty Library of Social Sciences, know how we’re seen through researchers perspective. We had a good talk with them and we know more about them and we know more about ourselves and maybe they also know more about there relationship with us. And that feels awesome – and healthy.

Along with some hygiene factor I – and a fair amount of researchers – do also believe the library holds a great deal of x factor but that’s a later blog post

What do you think? And more important – what do you library users (and non-users) think?

The survey was carried out by the very talented information specialist Mads Korsgaard, Ulrik Mads Hansen and Anders Bonatto Fisker from The Faculty Library of Social Sciences.


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