Maximizing Local and National Assessment for Evidence-Based Librarianship

By Cahoy, Ellysa Stern; Snavely, Loanne | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Maximizing Local and National Assessment for Evidence-Based Librarianship


Cahoy, Ellysa Stern, Snavely, Loanne, Reference & User Services Quarterly


A few months ago I was riveted by an in-house presentation disseminating results from a 2008 survey of computing by Penn State University faculty, students, and staff. I couldn't help but think that RUSQ readers would also find the Penn State data interesting, especially comparisons with national survey data. I invited one of the presenters (Loanne Snavely) to collaborate with Ellysa Stern Cahoy on an article that would share data from this survey as well as another locally executed survey. Both of these surveys represent a library partnership with other campus units. Additionally, I asked the authors to provide advice on how other libraries can replicate what Penn State has done in this area, and to demonstrate the importance of national and local technology-focused surveys for assessment.--Editor

Gaining a perspective on student and faculty opinions and abilities relevant to libraries and information technology (IT) is integral to and can locally inform planning for future services and resources. Yet, without ready access to campuswide survey instruments, how can academic librarians assess their users in this area? Building a culture of assessment can enrich evidence-based librarianship and provide a sound basis for decision making and strategic planning. (1) LibQUAL+ and other standardized library assessment tools have provided a basis for understanding library user needs, and surveys of technology use are becoming more essential to library planning. With the continued merging of libraries and IT on college campuses, it makes sense to capitalize on and integrate within already existing IT user surveys. The constant and rapid shift in popular technologies mandates that librarians, faculty, IT departments, and all of higher education understand how students and faculty are using technology in connection with library resources. This knowledge assists librarians in developing technology-related resources, programming, collections, and services, keeping library programming vital and relevant.

In only a few years, librarians have witnessed a shift from e-mail to instant messaging to Facebook, from landline telephones to cell phones to the mobile Web. What are the national technology trends, and how do they play out on an individual campus? How do technology trends inform the development of new services and experimentation with emerging methods for serving users? This article provides strategies for using national surveys of library users and leveraging and maximizing partnerships for local library data collection and analysis. The Penn State University Libraries have locally executed two surveys of faculty and students in partnership with Penn State Information Technology Services and the Office of Student Affairs, Research and Assessment. Details of the Penn State studies are shared in this article, along with examples of national technology surveys useful in local benchmarking.

NATIONAL TECHNOLOGY-FOCUSED SURVEYS

In recent years, the academic library community has used LibQUAL+, a primary assessment tool, to manage user satisfaction with and effectiveness of library services. (2) Based on SERVQUAL, a survey instrument designed to measure service quality for businesses, LibQUAL+ was developed by the Association of Research Libraries in collaboration with Texas A&M faculty. (3) Designed to identify gaps in library services, LibQUAL+ provides libraries with a standardized, Web-based survey to help librarians objectively evaluate services. (4) The tool also carries the option of benchmarking results with other peer institutions (and LibQUAL+ participants). LibQUAL+ covers a broad range of library topics of interest, including information literacy outcomes, effectiveness of services, and library as place. Responses can be broken down by specific audiences, including discipline, age, sex, and academic status. While it is a highly powerful survey tool, it is one that is administered solely by the library without buy-in from other campus groups. …

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