CPL's City of the Big Readers Survey

By Betsy Mikel in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 14, 2011 3:20PM

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The bicycle rack at Bucktown-Wicker Park Library by z3ro1.
This week in survey news, the Chicago Public Library is asking Chicagoans to answer a few questions about their reading habits so the library can better develop their programming to better match what patrons want.

“We were intrigued as more people are talking about the impact of bookstores closing and how it affects their reading and browsing habits, as well as the number of patrons inquiring about eBooks and requesting assistance with their e-readers,” said Ruth Lednicer, Director of Marketing and Press at Chicago Public Library. By capturing data about the history of reading in Chicago, CPL can better offering programming that reflects how Chicagoans read. This project was funded by the Hoellen Family Foundation.

The survey is pretty basic, asking what kinds of books you like to read, how often, and how you read. There are quite a few questions about e-readers, which are gaining popularity. In 2010, CPL loaned 36,103 e-books; that was twice the number of e-books they loaned in 2009. The library also had twice as many e-books available to loan in 2010 as they did in 2009. With the recent addition of Kindle books to their collection, CPL can loan e-books in pretty much every format. As an added bonus for both patrons and staff, e-books are automatically returned to the library once the lending period has expired. Patrons don’t have to pay fines or wait as long for books on hold, and staff don’t have to spend time checking books in and re-shelving.

Yet there are a few glitches with these new formats, which is probably why CPL is getting so many questions about them. We had trouble downloading our first Kindle book from the library and had to contact Amazon’s customer service to figure out how to get the book on our device. We were also surprised to discover that CPL does not offer this fall’s One Book, One Chicago selection, The Adventure of Augie March, in e-book format. The library orders hundreds of copies of One Book, One Chicago selections to ensure that anyone with a library card can get their hands on it as soon as possible, and has plenty physical copies available as well as audiobook versions. But, that’s the whole point of this survey. Maybe next spring, they’ll have a few e-book copies of the One Book, One Chicago book available.