Accent MR Accent

Identifying key new users for the British Library


The British Library is the largest library in the UK with an extensive user base across the country. However, in the past ten years registered user numbers have declined and the team wanted to find out why this was happening. The research needed to establish awareness of British Library services amongst non-users, to understand their research needs in general and their perceptions of the British Library in particular. The key aim of the research was to provide the British Library with a robust and in-depth assessment of non-users to inform strategy for increasing registered user numbers.


This two-phase project started with a quantitative phase, with over 1,000 non-users asked about a series of UK based institutions that could be used as research sources, including the British Library. General research needs were explored as well as their awareness of the British Library’s services and the likelihood of them using them now and in the future. We then developed an attitudinal segmentation using cluster analysis and created six segments, three of which represented better potential as future users of the Library’s services.

Participants who fell into the three ‘high potential segments’ were invited to join the qualitative phase of the project, where depth-interviews were used to shed more light on the topics tested in the survey. In addition, participants in this phase were asked to share their views on how to raise awareness of the British Library.


The project helped the British Library understand key barriers to usage and non-users’ main requirements from a research institution – both now and in the future. We were able to benchmark awareness and usage against that of other competitive institutions and provide clear guidelines as to which non-users represented the most fertile area for recruitment. The results are being used to devise changes to services and marketing.