The Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) conducted a patron experience survey in the Fall of 2021 (from September 27 to October 31, 2021) to better understand how the library can enhance patron experiences. Patrons voluntarily responded to multiple-choice and open-ended questions, and shared their thoughts about how they use our libraries and how we can continue to provide welcoming, safe and useful services for everyone.
More than 23,800 people from across the city, representing every library location, chose to provide valuable feedback about their library experiences. The survey was available in six of the most spoken languages in the city (Armenian, Chinese, English, Korean, Spanish, and Tagalog), and primarily accessed digitally through the library's English and Spanish language websites, email and social media. Paper copies of the survey were also available in each language. No incentives were offered, and no targeted quotas were set in the implementation of the survey.
Among the key survey findings:
- The levels of engagement and thoughtfulness with the LAPL patron survey are exceptional, and this large sample size provides confidence in the data collected
- Patrons from all 73 libraries in the LAPL system participated, demonstrating an outstanding level of reach and response
- The vast majority of library patrons feel both welcome (88%) and safe (80%) at the Ilibrary
- 70% of patrons feel the level of security in the library is appropriate with 28% who felt there were too few and 2% who felt there were too many, and that the library is clean (84%), well lit (84%), and quiet (85%)
- 75% of patrons indicated that they value their library most as a place to borrow materials such as books and music
- The most common request related to library services was for more of some kind of existing service or content, including digital materials
When patrons were asked to rate their level of agreement on a number of statements about the library, respondents were provided a scale ranging from 5 (strongly agree) to 1 (strongly disagree). As seen below, 80% to 88% rated these statements positively, and between 10% and 14% were neutral on these items. Between 3% and 7% expressed disagreement with statements regarding perceived library safety, noise level, cleanliness, and lighting. More specific levels of agreement or disagreement by survey item are illustrated below.
While the library is pleased with the significant number of patrons who provided feedback, it is important to note that the survey period was an unusual and challenging time to engage with patrons. Following closures for the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries had reopened four months earlier. Nonetheless, the large sample size of 23,830 and high survey completion rate of 85% allowed the findings to be reported with statistical confidence.
The Los Angeles Public Library appreciates that so many library patrons participated voluntarily, and that patrons were generous with their time and thoughtful in their responses. Not only did more than 20,000 people click through to start our survey, they stuck around and finished it. And not only did they complete the survey, they even spent extra time answering the two open-ended questions, and many of them added text just to say thank you.
Here are a few examples of general gratitude received from patrons:
- “I like this library and the people working there. They’ve always been kind to me. Thanks!”
- “Thank you for re-opening—Be Safe and Stay Well.”
- “I appreciate that the library exists. I love having access to books.”
- “I love the library and Los Angeles is the best! Thank you.”
After analyzing the data, the survey revealed patron responses were largely consistent throughout the city. With these findings, we will begin to make progress toward some of the suggestions provided and continue exploring how to offer welcoming, safe and useful services.
On the open-ended question, “What would increase your feeling of being welcomed and safe at the library?” seven categories emerged from the written responses. In no particular order, patrons expressed their views about environmental safety, persons experiencing homelessness, staff, security and police presence, library services and materials, cleanliness, and community outreach.
This survey is part of an ongoing effort to seek input from patrons, and it is just one tool. We look forward to exploring other methods of engaging patrons. Of course, we also want to connect with people who currently do not use the library and hear from them as well. Still, we are encouraged by the results and will use the lessons learned as we develop plans for future feedback.
Thank you again to everyone who participated in the patron experience survey. Your feedback counts as we continue creating better libraries.