Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Graduate Students and the Library: A Survey of Research Practices and Library Use at the University of Notre Dome

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Graduate Students and the Library: A Survey of Research Practices and Library Use at the University of Notre Dome

Article excerpt

This study sought to determine the extent to which the Hesburgh Libraries of the University of Notre Dame meets the needs of its graduate students. It focused on how Notre Dame graduate students found research materials and how useful the Hesburgh Libraries' collections were in their research and studies. Information gathered through this project indicates the level of usefulness of library resources and collections for one of its main constituents--graduate students. Graduate students' contacts with the library, regardless of method, were almost always for their own research pursuits, not for faculty research. Graduate students at Notre Dame had more limited contacts with librarians and with library outreach research services. Most respondents (62.8 percent) preferred to use remote access to obtain copies of electronic items identified as relevant to their research. Across the board, however, graduate students were generally satisfied with the various library services. The survey showed that 44.6 percent and 41.1 percent of the respondents rated the library as "very useful" and "useful," respectively, in their research. The data collected has provided a better understanding of graduate student research behavior, methods of library access, and levels of satisfaction with library resources, which will inform local practices and has the potential to do the same at other institutions of higher learning nationwide.

This study sought to determine the extent to which the Hesburgh Libraries of the University of Notre Dame (ND) meets the needs of its graduate students. It focused on how ND graduate students found research materials and how useful the Hesburgh Libraries' collections were in their research and studies. The study looked at the following types of questions: What were the information-seeking strategies graduate students employed in research and writing? How did they identify and acquire relevant research materials? What was their level of satisfaction with the library's collections?

Founded in 1842, ND is a private Catholic university located in Notre Dame, Indiana. The student population is largely an undergraduate one and primarily residential. In 2007 there were 8,451 undergraduate students and 3,362 graduate and professional students. (1) The Graduate School was established in 1918 and offers thirty-two master's and twenty-five doctoral degree programs. (2) This study focused on the nonprofessional graduate students.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Locally created user surveys are common at academic libraries. They assist the administration in assessing collections and services and formulating policies affecting library acquisitions and use. Studies show that undergraduates, graduates, and faculty all use the library differently--undergraduates for a place to study, graduates both for a place to study and to make use of the collections and services, and faculty to make use of the collections and services.

Berger and Hines found that Duke University undergraduates were more interested in generalist types of materials (e.g., magazines and newspapers). Faculty more often used "esoteric research publications" (e.g., manuscript materials and conference proceedings). (3) "Graduate students, truly in a transitional stage between these two groups, almost always responded in a way which placed them right between the experiences and desires of undergraduates and faculty." (4) Gardner and Eng found that undergraduates at the University of Southern California "demand access to information 24/7." (5) Further, these undergraduates "expect[ed] convenient, one-stop shopping when it [came] to research." (6) Studies by others in academic settings show that faculty were more interested in print books and journals and remote access than were graduate students. (7)

More recently, libraries have begun to use LibQUAL+ to assess user satisfaction via perception of service quality. (8) LibQUAL+, a survey created by the Association of Research Libraries, measures the user's perception of library service compared to the user's expectations. …

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