A survey of 14 major libraries in the UK reveals a massive dearth of information available to the public about the general insurance sector.

All bar one of the libraries questioned said that the insurance sector could better use the service to communicate with the public.

And the majority said they carried more information on the banking sector than they did on the insurance sector.

Only last month the ABI's director general Mary Francis said that she wanted to boost the industry's image with the public and blamed the media and regulatory bodies for the sector's poor image amongst consumers.

Just three of the libraries said they held the annual report of the insurance ombudsman.

The annual reports of the Chartered Insurance Institute and the Association of British Insurers were not held by any of the libraries which responded to our survey. Each of the libraries participating in the survey has a catchment area of at least 300,000. Meanwhile 12 of the 14 libraries (86%) said they would be willing to take the reports and display them on their shelves for reference purposes if they were supplied free.

Another publication which only two of the libraries surveyed currently receives is the BIBA Directory of Members. Another said it had received the 1994 edition of the directory but nothing since. Again, it was a publication which libraries said they would make available if it was sent to them.

The findings will make gloomy reading for marketing and public relations professionals across all interest groups in the sector.

The results would seem to indicate that at a time when insurance companies and other players are trumpeting their web sites, they are ignoring the library service – a resource for everyone, not just those with access to IT.

The most frequently requested information in relation to the insurance sector was for the names and addresses of insurance companies.

The next most sought after item was for background information on individual companies.

Asked how the insurance sector could better use the library to communicate with the public, libraries said they would appreciate informative and easily understood leaflets and periodicals to be provided free as well as trade directories. A number also said they would welcome "non-commercial" advice from insurers on key periodicals and titles to stock.

Ten of the libraries said there was an opportunity for the sector to sponsor or help finance their business reference sections, either financially or with IT support.