Librarian snack preferences - Jo Alcock Consulting
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Librarian snack preferences

Librarian snack preferences

A few weeks ago I conducted some very important research* on the snack preferences of librarians. I promised I’d share the findings so this post shares some of the highlights from the research.

Over the last few years I’ve learnt a bit about the chocolate preferences of librarians through the activities in my focus group workshops – for anyone who is interested, the findings suggest that Cadburys Roses aren’t so popular when compared to Cadbury Heroes or Celebrations; Bounty are the marmite of the chocolate world (either loved or hated by most people); and Creme Egg Twisted are generally a highlight. Perhaps one day I’ll share more in-depth findings from the research activities into chocolate preferences that I’ve completed during my focus group workshops. For now though, it’s time to share the findings of a slightly broader research question about the snack preferences of librarians which I conducted as part of my preparation for my statistics workshop.

I was intrigued to know more about the snack preferences of those in the library and information sector (I’ll be referring to these as ‘librarians’ but I’m using this as an inclusive term). I had a few key research questions:

  • What type of snacks do librarians enjoy?
  • What snacks are most popular with librarians?
  • Do librarians in different sectors have different snack preferences?

I chose to use an online survey to help me collect data towards my research questions. I set it up on SurveyMonkey and promoted it via Twitter:

As you can see, a number of people helped spread the word by retweeting the link to the survey. The survey was open for around 48hrs from 20th November to 22nd November 2016. I then exported the data to Excel and had a thoroughly enjoyable train journey or two analysing the data (yes I really do love this sort of thing!).


There were 279 respondents to the survey (which considering the time it was open and how little it was promoted makes me think librarians are either very generous with their time or are really passionate about snacks!). The breakdown of respondents by sector and by country is shown below:

Librarian snack preferences - respondents by sector

Librarian snack preferences – respondents by sector

Librarian snack preferences - respondents by country

Librarian snack preferences – respondents by country

Due to the sampling methods used (convenience sampling and snowball sampling) it’s not too surprising to see academic librarians as the most represented sector, and the UK as the most represented country, as I imagine many of my Twitter followers fit these demographics as that’s my background. It was pleasing to have respondents from so many other countries – amazing the reach you can get in such a short space of time thanks to social media (a definite advantage to this sampling method).

What types of snacks do librarians enjoy?

I chose to ask a multiple choice question to address this research question, with the following options:

  • Cake
  • Biscuits/cookies**
  • Crisps
  • Sweets
  • Chocolate

Respondents could select as many answers as applicable depending on which types of snacks they enjoy.

As can be seen from the pictogram below, many respondents enjoyed chocolate, biscuits/cookies, cake, and crisps. Sweets were a little less popular with just under half of the respondents enjoying sweets.

Librarian snack preferences - snacks enjoyed

Librarian snack preferences – snacks enjoyed

What snacks are most popular with librarians?

I used a similar question to the previous one to establish the most popular snacks, but this time respondents could only select one answer (to represent their favourite). I used this approach and the same responses to see if the patterns showed a similar trend for the types of snacks enjoyed and loved or if some snacks are enjoyed but rarely loved.

As you can see from the bar chart below, there is a slight shift from the pattern in the previous chart showing there are some snacks that are liked but not loved (sweets) and some snacks that people tend to love (perhaps more than you might expect given the similar numbers in the last question).

Librarian snack preferences - favourite snacks

Librarian snack preferences – favourite snacks

Do librarians in different sectors have different snack preferences?

In order to answer this question I combined the responses to the question about favourite snacks with the demographic information about respondents’ sectors. I was able to do this fairly easily in SurveyMonkey to produce the following stacked bar chart:

Librarian snack preferences - favourite snack by sector

Librarian snack preferences – favourite snack by sector

As you can see, there does appear to be some variance in the preferences. The data suggest public librarians seem to have a greater preference for cake, health librarians have a greater preference for chocolate, and school librarians have a greater preference for biscuits/cookies. However, remember the sample sizes for some of these groups is small.


The survey data suggest librarians love snacks, but that they’re far more likely to be interested in chocolate, crisps, biscuits/cookies, and cake than they are sweets (which from a personal perspective is excellent as it means more sweets for me!).

As with all research, there are some caveats that need to be taken into consideration, particularly around the methodology and sampling. However, the findings offer an interesting insight into the snack preferences of librarians that I hope will be useful for those planning events for librarians which would benefit from snacks.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this research and took it in the spirit intended (with a large dose of silliness). If you’re interested in learning more about the methods and techniques used to collect, analyse and present statistical data and would be interested in attending a workshop on this, please see more information in my statistics workshop flyer, and feel free to contact me.


*Not actually important research at all. A lot of fun though.

**I thought I was being inclusive by adding cookies as an alternative term for biscuits but totally forgot to add chips for crisps and candy for sweets – oops.

  • Gill
    Posted at 16:51h, 10 March Reply

    Excellent – can’t think how I missed the initial survey…my School Librarian roots must be showing as it would always be chocolate biscuits for me. Work is constant torment in that we sell penguins, kitkats, clubs and caramel bics (not chocolate) in the library. Unscientific survey is that milk kitkats are most popular and “oooo orange clubs” are a close second, particular with older users (not students) but that the consensus is they are smaller and have less chocolate than they used to!

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 16:59h, 10 March Reply

      Excellent information; thanks for sharing. In my focus group workshops it’s usually the Malteser Teasers that are most popular.

      • Gill Kaye
        Posted at 18:04h, 10 March Reply

        I’ve never heard of those…Must get out more!

        • Jo Alcock
          Posted at 18:35h, 10 March Reply

          They’re in Celebrations 🙂

  • Graham Steel (@McDawg)
    Posted at 17:34h, 10 March Reply

    Ace piece. I wonder if any Journal might consider this for publication 😉

  • John Kirriemuir
    Posted at 18:32h, 10 March Reply

    I am most intrigued in the categorization of Jaffa Cakes within your schema.

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 18:34h, 10 March Reply

      This was asked on Twitter too. Strictly speaking they’re cakes of course.

  • Graham Steel (@McDawg)
    Posted at 18:43h, 10 March Reply

    Slightly off piste, but thinking about my earlier comment, our #veryimportantresearch – a systematic literature review of blank pages in academic publishing was accepted for publication in a Journal after some minor revisions

  • Nikki Shaw
    Posted at 04:42h, 12 March Reply

    A very important piece of research. I wish I’d seen the original twitter post to share here in NZ, where cakes seem to rule, particularly home made.

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 19:57h, 16 March Reply

      Homemade cake is very popular in UK libraries in my experience too – I even have one lovely colleague who baked a special gluten free cake just for me (I have coeliac disease).

  • Claire Grace
    Posted at 08:57h, 13 March Reply

    I wonder what the impact of Bake Off might have been on the statistic for cake, particularly in the UK? I reckon the increase in the volume of cake availability in libraries might correlate directly with the appearance and rise in popularity of Bake Off. In order to reduce this impact I reckon there should be a series called ‘Crisp Off’ (my personal preference)….

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 19:58h, 16 March Reply

      I do wonder if I’d sent the survey out during Bake Off peak season there might have been a different result.

  • Melanie Brocklehurst
    Posted at 19:53h, 16 March Reply

    Excellent piece of research: I wonder what the results would be for a “homemade vs shop-bought” cake sub-category? As an ex-pat public librarian in the US, I am saddened at the meetings I go to where bagels and granola bars seem to be the snack offerings of choice, and not at all surprised that they rarely get sampled. I think US public libraries could learn a lot from the UK. And don’t get me started on trying to get a cup of tea at a library-hosted meeting …

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 19:56h, 16 March Reply

      I’ll be honest; based on my experience of the prevalence of cake at libraries I’ve worked in or visited I did think that would come out on top by quite a distance.

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