April 11, 2016

The survey results are in! Are you listening?

Written by:
Dodie Ownes

Tags: ,

Did You Hear That? It's the Exploding World of Audiobooks and Listeners' Advisory webcast took place live on March 23, and among many things, the 2016 Public and School Library Audiobook Survey was discussed. Sponsored by NoveList and developed in conjunction with Library Journal magazine, the survey was conducted Jan/Feb 2016 and had 630 responses, 395 from public libraries and 235 from school libraries. It should be noted that the lower survey response by school libraries could indicate that many do not support audiobook collections, though 82 percent of respondents reported carrying audiobooks (99 percent for public libraries).

A few observations:

Both school and public libraries indicated that they expect their physical format audiobook collections to decrease in the next three years while downloading and streaming will increase. While there is some overlap in platforms used by school and public libraries, OverDrive, used by over 90 percent of public libraries, is only used in about a quarter of school libraries responding to the survey. Nearly 56 percent of school libraries reported using Follett as their audio platform, followed by Mackin at 22 percent.

While all public libraries reported that ‘easy to use’ was what they liked most about their audiobook hosting platform, urban public libraries put simultaneous use above range of titles in what they like about their hosting platform, versus those designated as suburban/rural small town. Overwhelmingly, public libraries of all sizes found 'complicated/too many steps' the biggest thing to dislike about their audiobook hosting platform, while in school libraries, 'complication' ran close to dislikes with cost and varied platforms/logins.

The promotion level of audiobooks and availability of listeners’ advisory varied by library size and type. Over forty percent of suburban and rural/small town public libraries reported doing weekly listening advisory, only 22 percent of urban libraries reported the same. It is interesting to note that urban libraries were most likely to host audiobook programming (25%) with suburban and rural/small town public libraries reporting in at 9 and 18 percent, respectively. Overall, 57 percent of public libraries reported having no staff member who is considered an audiobook ‘expert.’

Public libraries and school libraries differ greatly when it comes to designating the population of users which their audiobook collection supports. For public libraries, 84 percent indicated the supporting commuters was the top priority, followed by supporting visually impaired patrons (64%) and reluctant readers (47%). Seventy seven percent of school libraries reported their audio collections were to support reluctant readers. Supporting curriculum (67%), ELL support (51%) and assistance for emerging readers (50%) were reported as the next highest areas of support by school library audio collection.

Budget and circulation figures collected from the survey reveal that, overall for public libraries, audiobooks account for ten percent or more of circulation, yet just over 42 percent report that only one to five percent of their budgets is spent on audio. School libraries reported that the majority, 54 percent, spent one to five percent on their audio collections.

One of the most striking contrasts in accessibility between school and public libraries revolves around the integration of audio titles in the library catalog -- nearly 84 percent of public libraries indicated that audio titles, in all formats, were integrated in the library catalog, while just 66 percent of school libraries reported the same, most likely due to the standalone nature of their primary platforms, Follett and Mackin.

Following a discussion of the survey, the webcast features panelists from the Audio Publishers Association, audio marketing specialists, and a listeners’ advisory expert. Put this 60 minute listen on your audio to-do list!

Dodie Ownes is an adult service librarian at Douglas County Libraries, James H. LaRue branch, in Highlands Ranch, CO. She serves on RUSA's The Listen List Award committee and the CODES Readers' Advisory Research and Trends Committee and is the chair of the ALA Sullivan Award committee.

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