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Public libraries and non-users: A comparison between Manchester and Rome

Sbaffi, L and Rowley, J (2014) Public libraries and non-users: A comparison between Manchester and Rome. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 47. ISSN 1741-6477

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Abstract

This paper presents the findings of a study conducted with library managers from two major metropolitan areas, Greater Manchester in England and Rome in Italy. The study aims to compare practices, activities and policies adopted in the two cities to attract non-users, with particular attention to the approach that librarians take to resolving the non-user issue. This research also revealed differences in the way public libraries are used in the two areas. In Manchester, libraries are predominantly task orientated, offering access points for community services, whereas in Rome the focus is more on entertainment, leisure, and social events. The non-user profiles differ between cities, with non-users being mostly older teenagers and young adults in Manchester and mostly younger teenagers and pensioners in Rome. Reading groups, a key service for encouraging reading and familiarising with library facilities, are well established in England, with 90% of the libraries in Manchester accommodating one or more groups, compared to only 50% of the libraries in Rome offering usually a single group. In addition, Manchester libraries often have a range of specialised reading groups to suit a large variety of reading tastes. Libraries in both cities are aware of the need for proactive marketing and management of their web presence but should look at other countries’ strategies to expand their range of activities and programmes to attract more public.

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