Perspectives and Reality
Barriers to public library usage identified in the
Libraries Building Communities reports
LBC – a groundbreaking project
• Includes all 44 Victorian public library services
• Draws on the views and ideas of nearly 10,000
• Data on who uses libraries, why and what benefits they
• Data on who is not using public libraries and why
• Shows what people value about public libraries and
what they see as their future role
• Presents case studies for public libraries at the
forefront in responding to community needs
• Reports available at
Report 3: Bridging the Gaps
• Detailed quantitative data on who is using public libraries
• Identification of groups who are not using public libraries
• Barriers to using public libraries
• Suggestions for reducing the barriers
• 60% of Victorians use public libraries
Barriers to use
• Drawing on the views of:
- 35 community leaders
- 24 focus groups (users; non-users; staff)
• Four groups of barriers identified:
- Lifestyle preferences
- Infrastructure and environment
- Resources and services
- Communication
Lifestyle preferences as a barrier
• 30% of Victorians don’t use public libraries for
lifestyle reasons:
- have access to alternative resources
- have no time in their lives
• Many are strong supporters of public libraries and
perceive them as desirable core institutions in a
healthy society
Infrastructure barriers
• Physical design / unfriendly buildings
- unattractive buildings
- lack of appropriate spaces within buildings
- access issues
• Poor signage (especially for CALD groups)
• Poor proximity to public transport and other facilities
• Inadequate car parking
When you go to Borders or whatever, you have a
mixture of shops you can go to … but when you go
to libraries, it’s just like one stop, you can’t go
anywhere else
One library is on two levels, which does not cater for
the physically disabled
Top shelves are too high for the elderly to reach and
bottom shelves too low for them to bend down
Resource and service barriers
• Not offering up-to-date material
• Inadequate collections for specific groups:
- minority language groups
- students
• Inadequate adaptive technology for disabled
• Poor access to IT
• AV resources often of poor quality
• Limited activities for some groups:
- elderly; teenagers
Resource and service barriers
Inappropriate opening hours
Staff reluctant to engage with ‘high maintenance’
groups, eg: teenagers
• Lack of staff speaking community languages
I have the perception, rightly or wrongly, that the
library probably isn’t going to have what I want
There is a disability PC; however, regular ablebodied users are often seated at this PC, making
it difficult for disabled people to gain access
I remember my son borrowing a video, but the
quality was very, very poor and he decided it was
better to pay a few dollars at the video shop
Getting the books together from all the kids to return
was really hard. They kept calling and I was
embarrassed when I finally brought them in
The big stick approach will only scare users away.
We need a carrot – it doesn’t need to be a big one
because our people are eager to learn
When your child says I need this book, this book and
this book [from another library] … we haven’t got
that sort of money
Communication barriers
• Culture – ‘it’s not for people like us’
• Lack a modern and welcoming image:
- a ‘high school feel’ for teenagers
- displays and section signage not inviting
- too quiet / too ‘booky’
- not enough extra / ‘feel good’ facilities (eg:
coffee shops; gallery space)
• Lack of awareness of the full range of services
I think there’s a stigma attached to libraries. Quiet
booky types or elderly people come here. It’s not an
‘in’ place to be seen, especially for young people
None of my mates come to the library
A lot of people forget it’s here
I was not aware of all the services. I was surprised
when I read the survey and saw all they had to offer.
Libraries tend to have an image of being ‘old musty
places’, without modern collections / recent
Important things to note
LBC Report 3: Bridging the Gaps is not a negative report
Public libraries have a predominantly positive image in the
Not all of the barriers to usage relate to every public library
Some of the barriers relate to outmoded perceptions of
public libraries – perceptions that need to be turned
There are many strategies for overcoming the barriers for
those who do not use libraries
Reports available from
Every public library service manager in Victoria
State Library of Victoria website
Download at no cost, or purchase from the
Online Shop

Libraries Building Communities