2011 Boise Public Library Community Survey

To read the entire report visit


Background and Objectives

In 1999 the Boise City Library conducted a survey of area residents to determine use of and attitudes toward library services offered in the greater Boise area. Since then, vast changes have occurred in Boise and nationwide in the demographic, social, and technological environments in which libraries operate. Boise’s library service profile and usage have also changed significantly in the last few years. The current study is being used to update the1999 study and has four key objectives:

* Determine the characteristics of library users and non-users and which segments of the community are well served, under served, or not served by the library,

* Understand which current library services are most desired and relevant to the population,

* Identify barriers to the use of library services, and

* Identify new services and opportunities that would benefit the community.


In 2010, ORC launched a new address-based sampling (ABS) and data collection methodology, CDP SamplingTM. In the 1999 study, a random-digit dialing (RDD) telephone survey was used to contact all survey respondents. Recent research has identified coverage problems with the RDD telephone approach as more and more households move to cell phone-only or cell phone-primary households. This is particularly true of the harder-to-reach, younger segments of the population, as well as those living in multi-unit dwelling types or who are renters. Mail surveys often generated low and non-representative response rates. Telephone contacts are often made to increase response rates, but these calls are only made to households with listed landline telephone numbers.

Address-based sampling is based on a random sample of households in Boise City and the Boise City Area of Impact from the U.S. Postal Service Delivery Sequence File (DSF). This file encompasses nearly all U.S. households and is updated regularly. Addresses from that list were matched against key databases to provide telephone numbers where possible. If a phone number was appended, that household was then contacted by phone to complete the interview. If no telephone number was available, a letter was mailed to the address asking the respondent to complete the survey online or by calling into a toll-free number.

The end result was a total of 1,156 surveys being completed: 778 by phone and 378 online. The majority (n = 893) surveys were completed by library users; the balance (n = 263) were completed with library non-users. More information is provided in the Sampling and Data Collection and Demographic Profiles and Weighting sections.

Key Findings

Overall, residents of Boise feel that the public library is very important to the community. They feel that the most important services are traditional library services—such as the lending of books, providing research materials, and educational classes for youth.

* On average, past-12-month users of a public library in Boise rate these services as more important than non-users. Residents between 18 and 34 years of age generally give the highest importance ratings for most library services.

However, ratings of importance to the community are not necessarily a reflection of how services are used. For example:

* The lending of books, movies and music are considered important (89% of respondents) and also are top in usage (89% of users)

* Research information and resources are rated as very important (92%), but are comparatively low in usage (49% had gotten information for personal use, 26% for schoolwork)

Use of Library Services

Just over three out of four (77%) adult residents claim to have used a Boise City public library in the past year—a significant increase from 1999 when fewer than two out of three (64%) adult residents had visited the library. Half (50%) of all library users expect their use of the library to increase over the next five years.

Use of library services can be divided into three broad categories:

1) The Basics

Basic services include borrowing books, DVDs, CD’s or eBooks, renewing or viewing information online, linking to the library remotely, and having materials mailed or delivered.

* Nearly all (93%) library users have used the library for one of these services in the past year.

* Nine out of ten (89%) borrow books, DVDs or CD’s.

2) To Get Work Done

This category includes accessing a library computer, using the library for computer or technology tutoring, gathering information for personal use or school work, and using the library as a resource for finding jobs.

* Three out of four (74%) library users have used the library for at least one of these services in the past year.

* Nearly half have used the library to get information for personal use (49%) and/or to use library computers (48%). (Note that the survey did not distinguish between Internet computers and catalog computers.)

* Nearly three out of ten (28%) library users received one-on-one tutoring on computer skills or technology. One in five (19%) have used the library to help find a job or for work-related purposes.

3) Meet & Attend Activities

This includes going to the library for enjoyment or attending activities, meeting for non-library functions, and participating in activities for children, teens, and adults.

* Two out of three (67%) library users have used the library for at least one of these services in the past year.

* Almost one in four (23%) have attended a children’s program or activity. Attendance of children’s programs is particularly high for multi-lingual families (39%) and stay-at-home moms (66%).

Satisfaction & Areas for Improvement

Those who have used the library in the past year are quite satisfied—top-two box satisfaction of 91 percent— with Boise’s libraries, up significantly from 1999 when the top-two box satisfaction rating was 85 percent. Three out of four users (76%) are extremely likely to recommend the library to others and additional 17 percent are somewhat likely to recommend—top-two box of 93 percent. Again this compares favorably to 1999 when 89 percent of library users said they would recommend the library to others.

The highest rated services among all users of a given service are:

* Responsiveness of staff. Nearly all (97%) users rate this as good (25%) or excellent (72%).

* Staff Assistance with Research Questions. Ninety-five percent (95%) of users rate this as good (25%) or excellent (71%).

* Activities for Kids. Over nine out of ten (94%) rate activities for children as good (33%) or excellent (61%).

However, there are areas for improvement.

* Increase the number of publicly available computers. At 73 percent top-two box satisfaction, this received the lowest overall satisfaction score of all services. Access to computers is particulary important to younger users (18-34 years).

* Increase the hours of service. This received the second lowest satisfaction score (77%), and the highest level of interest among “possible” library services.

* Identify opportunities at Main Library and Hillcrest: The Main Library and the Library! at Hillcrest received significantly lower ratings than the other libraries on overall quality (83% and 85%, respectively) and on quality of facilities ( 73% and 79%).

* Better address the needs of multi-lingual households. Only two out of five multi-lingual households (41%) are extremely satisfied with their primary library, and 12 percent are neutral compared to 60 percent of English-only households being extremely satisfied and only 5 percent neutral.

Potential New Services

Both users and non-users were most interested in existing library services and in online payment of fines and fees.

For users, the highest interest “possible” services are:

* Longer hours/more days (55%)

* Online payment of fines and fees (51%)

For non-users, the highest interest “current or potential” services are:

* Online payment of fines and fees (42%)

* Checkout DVDs and CDs (39%)

* Downloadable ebooks (38%)

* Public computers (36%)

Both groups are also interested in classes and continuing education, and in educational/art exhibits.

Converting Non-Users

Except for education, demographic differences between library users and non-users are not dramatic, although significant differences do exist. Compared to library users, those who had not used a public library in Boise in the past 12 months are:

* Less likely to have a college degree (44% vs. 65% for users)

* Less likely to have children in the household (28% vs. 40%)

* More likely to be male (56% vs. 46%),

* More likely to be over 44 years old (56% vs. 46%).

Three out of four (75%) non-users have used a public library in Boise at some point in the past. The primary reasons that non-users give for not visiting a public library in the past year are that they had no real need or interest (37%), they use another library (15%), or they use the Internet (14%). Nearly three-quarters (73%) use online sources (free or retail) for finding books, music, movies, or information.

When asked to indicate their interest toward library services, non-users are fairly neutral. However, five of the top seven services are already offered by Boise Public Libraries.

Non-users were also asked what can be done to encourage them to become users. The top actions are to get more / better / newer materials (20%) and to advertise or promote library services (18%). This, combined with the finding that the library already offers services that would are of interest to non-users suggests that most non-users simply may not be aware of all of the services that the library has to offer and that the most effective way to convert them into users is to build awareness of these services.

Submitted by Joanne Hinkel, Community Relations, Boise Public Library – Main Library


4 thoughts on “2011 Boise Public Library Community Survey”

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