User survey at public libraries

A comparable survey with personalised insights

Context of research

The first large scale survey among users of public libraries took place in 2004. Over the last one and a half decades, the public library sector underwent substantial changes, among other things because of the increasing influence of the Internet, which redraw the media landscape. Although lending books remains at the core of public libraries, many libraries have reinvented themselves. Nowadays, public libraries are also community centers that host a variety of activities. Membership is no longer a condition to visit a library. The umbrella association of Flemish libraries (VVBAD – “Vlaamse Vereniging voor Bibliotheek, Archief en Documentatie”) ordered a follow-up survey in 2018.

The challenges

The follow-up survey was conducted via MOTUS. The flexibility of this softwareplatform needed to guarantee that:

  • Results are comparable with the survey from 2014;
  • Results are comparable between libraries;
  • The questionnaire was adapted to the changes that libraries underwent; and
  • The recruitment of respondents was expanded beyond members (after all, libraries are, for example, also community centers).

“MOTUS offers the flexibility to ask questions about the unique context of each individual library within the framework of a comparable research design.”

The survey

Between February and June 2018, users – in the broadest sense – of public libraries were invited to participate in the survey. On the central webpage ( they selected their own library and completed a general questionnaire as well as a library-specific questionnaire. Every library receives a personalised report. They will use the results to evaluate their functioning and improve it where necessary.

The survey in figures

  • 107 public libraries participated;
  • 61 libraries added personalised questions to the questionnaire;
  • Over 45.000 users had their say;
  • The questionnaire was online for five months;
  • The average completion time of the questionnaire was 28 minutes.


#Large-scale   #Questionnaire   #User behaviour