As part of the library’s annual assessment activities, this year I decided to compile, review, and report on user input via the easel/pad responses. The anticipated use of the results was to include users’ perspective to inform library allocation of resources, which as you will read, has to some extent, been accomplished.
In April 2009 I attended the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) conference held in Seattle, Washington. Looking for simple, affordable, yet effective ways to measure and/or improve the library user experience, one idea brought back from the conference was to leave an easel with notepad and pen in various locations with the following open-ended header statement: “I would like to see the Duggan Library…..Tell us your thoughts….”
I acknowledge up front that the inherent weakness of this process is the number of individuals who participated would not be known as one could ostensibly write the same comment numerous times, skewing the results to some degree. I also apologize for what might be perceived as an overdue reply to the responses.
In any event, in August 2009 an easel was placed in the library lobby as it afforded greater anonymity for responses as well as 24-hour access to students. Throughout the first year the easel was also moved to two other campus locations (Campus Center and Crowe Hall Coffee Shop) to give those who normally don’t visit the library an opportunity to provide their input.
Over the course of two academic years there were a total of 41 sheets filled with comments. While some comments may be considered sarcastic or colorful, these were included as long as a legitimate complaint/suggestion could be extracted. Offensive comments, though fortunately few in number, were excluded from this assessment. Also excluded were those that were only sympathetic/supportive in nature (for example, “I think you guys do a great job”).
As can be seen in the pie chart, far and away the single biggest issue was that of open library hours. The comments ranged from one extreme to another (for example, from “stay open 24 hours” to “keep the same total reduced hours but shift them to stay open later”). In total, there were 114 comments (43% of all comments) regarding the library’s open hours being reduced and the desire to see them restored to the previous hours, or some variation on this.
The remaining 153 statements could be classified among the following broad categories: Library Collections, Food & Beverage, Computer Lab, Aesthetics, Library Policies, ILS (Integrated Library System) Functionality, Furnishings, Visual/Displays, Functional Improvements, Equipment, HVAC, Programming, Electrical, Facilities, and Miscellaneous.
The concern receiving the second highest number of remarks (18) had to do with vending machines (lobby area) including the wish for consistently working machines, and particularly the addition of a hot beverage machine. Related to this was the expressed need (16 comments) for a source of drinking water in the library lobby area since this is a 24-hour space. There were also 7 suggestions for a café. Collectively, the category of Food & Beverage ranked second in total comments behind Library Hours (16% of all remarks).
The third highest ranking category was that of Library Collections, receiving 31 comments (11% of total). Dispersed among this category were a number of suggestions including “more/modern fiction books”, “updated scholarly books”, and “new children’s/young adult books”.
Two other categories receiving double-digit comments (15 comments each, or 6% of total comments) were statements related to Functional Improvements (“more whiteboards, pencil sharpener in lobby, coat hook for lobby restroom, fix lobby door”, et al) and Furnishings (new furniture, more bean bags, couches, etc.
The remaining categories were tallied as follows:
- Computer Lab; 9 comments
- ILS [Integrated Library System] & Electrical; 7 comments each
- Visual/Displays & Facilities; 5 comments each
- HVAC [Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning]; 4 comments
- Aesthetics; 3 comments
- Library Policies, Equipment, & Programming; 2 comments for each
- Miscellaneous (staff and Interlibrary Loan); 1 comment each, or 2 total
As hoped, this simple method for collecting user input has provided an ongoing and consistent means for immediate feedback, and where feasible, timely responses. It has also permitted the population served to help determine priorities for library resources as well as allowed the library to implement a number of ideas to meet stated needs.
Some of the suggestions implemented include the simple and obvious such as installing a pencil sharpener in the 24-hour lobby area to the more complex and time consuming like providing more outlets in that area (accomplished through purchase of portable power kits and installation of additional outlets). Other suggestions were in the process of being met such as adding more bean bag chairs and providing more group study areas (Think Tanks).
Further ideas have been considered but are not practical (installing a drinking fountain in the lobby is impractical due to lack of proper drainage), within the realm of the library’s control (computer lab suggestions are within IT’s authority), or are not within the current budget (additional library open hours).
Lastly, in addition to actions already taken as a result of user feedback, it is being recommended that the following suggestions be explored for support/implementation:
- Restore library open hours to the previous amount of weekly hours (103.5).
- Install new vending machines in the 24-hour lobby area including a snack machine, cold beverage, and hot beverage machines that will consistently work and be kept stocked with fresh products.
- Use library gift fund to purchase replacement furniture for first two floors of library.
- Provide a bottled water delivery service for the 24-hour lobby.
- Consider purchase on demand model for monographs so that students, in addition to faculty, can more easily acquire library books supporting their research and scholarship.
Many thanks to everyone who provided input and I hope you keep the suggestions and ideas for improving your library experience coming!