Ask a Reader: library recommendations

We’ve reviewed the questions submitted during our Ask A Reader campaign and realized that some of the answers could be found in recent research we’ve already conducted. Huzzah! So we’ve taken to the blog to share some of that data.

Q: Do readers ask librarians for reading suggestions to help them find their next great reads? Do they know they can do this?

Neil Gaiman once said, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” Canadians seem to agree with this sentiment, because in 2010 we asked staff at public and academic libraries 70,000 questions each day for a yearly total of 25 million questions (Canadian Library Association). We also know from our research that Canadian book buyers are enthusiastic users of the library, as 51% of book buyers are also library users. They also happen to purchase 3.1 books a month on average, compared to 2.6 for non-library users. 

Clearly, Canadian readers love libraries and library users love books, but how many readers ask library staff for book recommendations?

Our 2015 survey revealed that the majority of book recommendations, 36% in fact, came from friends and family, while 5% came from teachers and 3% were given by sales associates in stores. Surprisingly, only 1% of book recommendations are from library staff. The low percentage may be attributed to Canadian readers increasingly utilizing online resources to find book reviews and recommendations, as 35% can be traced to online reviews, social media, online communities, YouTube, digital publications, forums, blogs, and websites.  

Where Canadians get book recommendations

 Where did the recommendation/review come from? (Please select all that apply) (N=454)

Where did the recommendation/review come from? (Please select all that apply) (N=454)

Readers also discover books in a variety of ways. A poll we conducted this year revealed that 45% of readers browsed for books in brick-and-mortar stores, while the popularity of using online resources to discover books is on the rise. Half of book searches reported by respondents (50%) utilized online resources in some shape or form, be it social media, review websites, bookseller websites, or others, to discover books. Only 1% browsed in their library to find their next great read. 

Where do Canadians search for books?

 Where were you browsing/searching when you became aware of this book? (Please select all that apply) (N= 564)

Where were you browsing/searching when you became aware of this book? (Please select all that apply) (N= 564)

Despite the rise of smartphones and ebook readers, Canadian libraries are busier than ever and this “renaissance may be due in part to the very technology that was expected to threaten their existence.” Canada is the first country to get all its public libraries online and our libraries have continued to evolve with technology. Library attendance is more virtual than it ever was before, with electronic transactions now accounting for a large part of the overall increase in library use. This increased use of library websites and other online platforms to browse for books may explain why very few Canadian readers are requesting book recommendations directly from librarians.

We'll be delving deeper into the topic of discoverability and purchasing habits in our forthcoming study, How Canadians Buy Books. Keep watching the research page for release details.