In the summer of 2013, Unisphere Research published an article about library budgets and how they are shifting towards technology and mobile access. Libraries: At the Epicenter of the Digital Disruption—The Library Resource Guide Benchmark Study on 2013/14 Library Spending Plans takes a look into the various spending trends among 796 libraries and the challenges these libraries are facing to maintain their budget while staying relevant in the Digital Age. The study presented three key findings:
1. Even with the changing economy, library budgets are bouncing back or staying the same.
2. Three-fourths of libraries are seeing an increased demand for digital collections.
3. Libraries’ top priority is to provide technology based access.
Library Budgets are Bouncing Back (or Staying the Same)
Libraries have reported that their budgets are generally staying the same or bouncing back. 34% of the libraries surveyed reported that their budgets have increased (compared to 31% from both 2011 and 2012) while 29% of libraries reported that their budgets have stayed the same (compared to 26% and 25% from the last two years).
However, their new revenues are not being used to expand their print collections, but rather the funds are being used to bolster their digital and online content. This is reflected in the growing trend of libraries spending less on print collections (down 11% since 2011), while increasing their spending on digital collections (up 13% since 2011).
An Increased Demand for Digital Collections in Libraries
The increased allowance in library budgets for digital collection acquisitions isn’t surprising considering 74% of libraries are seeing an increased demand for electronic resources compared to the 23% who saw an increase in demand for print resources.
13% of Americans aged 16 and up have accessed their library via website or mobile app while on their mobile devices according to a Pew Internet Survey from December 2012. They’ve used their smartphones or tablets to search their library’s catalog, find basic information, reserve or renew books and use online databases.
Libraries represent the touch-point for technological changes in a community. According to Library Services in the Digital Age, a large portion of the respondents stated that they would like for libraries to embrace more technologies. Among the suggestions offered, 73% of respondents asked for an online research service that would allow patrons to pose questions to librarians, 69% asked for access to technology “petting zoos” (to try out new devices), while 63% of respondents asked for app-based access to library materials and programs.
Libraries are already bridging the digital divide and determining what role they will play in the future. The top three priorities for a majority of libraries in the next year are to: increase availability of online publications and digital access, improve or expand customer service and to provide assistance and provide education on information access tools and services. Over 50% of the libraries are noting that their main challenges over the next five years will be maintaining services with tight budgets and keeping up with changes in information technology.
Here’s How Two Libraries Funded the Shift
For the 2012 fiscal year, LibraryLinkNJ created a mobile pilot project for libraries that enabled selected libraries to provide mobile technology based access; their goal was to ensure libraries have a mobile presence for their patrons. Several libraries who were selected as finalists chose Boopsie as their app provider, including the David and Lorraine Cheng Library at William Paterson University and the Burlington County Library System (BCLS). A majority of the costs associated with implementing the apps were covered by the funds the libraries received from LibraryLinkNJ; the grant received from BCLS covered nearly 87% of the costs and the Cheng Library received nearly 50% of the cost of their custom-branded Boopsie App.
A Final Thought
So what can libraries do to remain relevant in the digital world while maintaining their budgets? There are several excellent services that libraries can use to help expand their digital reach; among several other digital subscriptions, Zinio and Hoopla are two newer options for libraries. Libraries can partner with Zinio to provide digital magazines to their patrons. For libraries who partner with Hoopla, their cardholders can stream movies and television shows. We’ll be covering these two digital subscription options in more detail soon.