Non-use of public libraries in Germany

The German reading foundation Stiftung Lesen and the German Library Association have released a representative telephone survey on the reasons for the non-use of public libraries. For the first time, it has been examined why adolescents and adults do not – or no longer – use city or municipal libraries (university and school libraries have not been taken into account).

The computer-assisted telephone interviews were conducted in October and November 2011 and 1.301 individuals aged 14 to 75 were surveyed – among them 28 percent non-users, 41 percent former users and 29 percent users of libraries. The major findings are listed below.

Reasons why people do not or no longer use public libraries:
• restricted opening hours
• unattractive premises
• no cafeteria
• personal habits
• lack of interesting events

Furthermore, it has been examined how public library services could be rendered more appealing in order to increase the number of users.

Measures which are very likely to win back former users and to attract new users:
• extended opening hours
• Sunday opening
• appealing premises
• a wide range of DVDs and CDs
• up-to-date digital media
• a variety of attractive events and activities
• special events for families
• more computers and internet access
• home delivery of books/media

Most of the users of public libraries interviewed for this survey have become acquainted with libraries during childhood. This is one of the most outstanding findings of the study which points to the fact that early promotion of children is a key factor in this issue. Therefore, the focus of public library services should be on low-threshold offers for families as well as on co-operations with schools and kindergardens. This allows even children of lower educated parents to get lifelong access to the world of reading. To attract an increasing number of young people, public libraries should offer a wide range of digital media. This bears great potential for an increase in popularity of public libraries which is .a very important factor: it should not be forgotten that a vivid library scene is indispensible for a successful reading promotion.