A recent survey has revealed that librarians are second only to doctors in terms of the trust placed in them by seekers of information. This is according to a research report evaluating a project led by the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and funded by the Arts Council England. The research found that Internet users trust library staff more than most other providers of online support and information.
The evaluation report is a review of a ‘National Information Offer project which “grew from the conviction of all the partners involved that public libraries have a key role to play in supporting people to use online public services, as part of this shift to digital by default for online government services. It was developed by the Society of Chief Librarians and funded by Arts Council England to demonstrate the capability of libraries to perform this function.” (Taken from the report.) I have blogged about the implications of digital by default earlier.
The report argues that the project has demonstrated the trust placed in librarians, as well as helping those who manage library services to identify further development activity that is needed to strengthen the library’s information offer, build on the existing skills of staff and creating accessible routes into online resources.
“The intention [of the project] was to demonstrate why libraries should be one of the partners delivering online services, based on their traditional role in providing information at a very local, accessible point of contact; the skills of library staff, in assessing the quality of information offered and in supporting users to access it; and the national support available to them through established collaborative working under the aegis of the Society of Chief Librarians and Arts Council England.”
The project supported eight pilots which were set up with the aim of helping people effectively navigate the range of national and local information sources available online. The pilot projects involved more than 60 public library authorities in England and the online information focused on four topic areas: careers and jobs; health information; financial information; and benefits advice. It also involved a training framework for staff.
Reading more of the report indicates that the plan is for a ‘national information offer’ to be developed for public libraries. For these pilots, the local authorities created new webpages with online information and links. The appendices review these websites, including some dos and don’ts, which might be useful for library services if they want to review their own online information provision.
It also has some recommendations for the Society of Chief Librarians and the Arts Council England, including using the ‘trust’ element as a key marketing and advocacy tool.