In fall 2014, the UST Libraries contracted with the Association of Research Libraries to conduct the LibQUAL survey, a well-regarded measure of the satisfaction of users of academic libraries. The findings of the survey will help the libraries as we develop strategic directions in support of university’s strategic plan.
LibQUAL is designed to assess the extent to which our library services are meeting the needs and expectations of our users. Answers to 27 questions in the areas of services, collections and library as place document our users’ perception of actual and desired level of quality.
Since 2000, more than 1,200 libraries nationwide have participated in LibQUAL; this is the second time that the UST Libraries have conducted the survey (it was previously done in 2008). Because the libraries conducted the same survey in 2008 and because comparable academic libraries around the country also have conducted the survey, we are able to measure changes in user perceptions over time and with our peers.
This year, we sent the survey to all UST students, faculty and staff, and received valid responses from 1,455 library users (including 693 undergraduate students, 446 graduate students and 172 faculty). The data we received can be analyzed by user group, discipline, library most used and other variables. In addition to the raw data we received nearly 500 comments from various users, all of which are being analyzed and classified by theme. We will continue to analyze all of our findings over the coming months.
Our initial findings show that the libraries are exceeding user expectations in a number of areas including “giving users individual attention,” providing “multimedia collections users need,” “making me aware of library resources and services” and “providing information resources reflecting diverse points of view.” Because users identified their role, we are able to look at results by user group, and learn where our constituencies have the highest expectations. For example:
- Undergraduate students seem to place a high value on the library as place and want comfortable and inviting spaces to study.
- Graduate students are most interested in accessing library resources from their home or office.
- Faculty seem to be happy with library staff services and library spaces, and have the highest expectations for us in the area of electronic resources availability and a website that enables them to locate information on their own.
In terms of changes between 2008 and 2014, we learned that overall satisfaction with library services increased for all user groups during the six-year period. When we compare findings from our survey with LibQUAL results from comparable institutions (Marquette University and Santa Clara University both conducted LibQUAL in 2014) we’ve learned that the UST libraries rate higher in overall quality and library support for learning, research and teaching than either of those university libraries.
While we are happy with many of the findings from this survey, we also acknowledge that there are areas where we can improve. We’ve learned there are some frustrations with finding the best resources using the libraries’ Web page. One comment captures what we think too many of our users experience when interacting with library: “Excellent resources, but it seems more difficult than it should be to get the resources, and oftentimes the information can be overwhelming.”
In fact, the UST libraries, having been well-supported by the university for many years, do offer great treasures in electronic content to our users. Given that we live in a time of information abundance rather than information scarcity, it is a challenge for the libraries to help our users navigate and effectively use that information in their work. The libraries currently are developing strategic objectives for the coming years, and this challenge will remain a high priority for us. As the University of St. Thomas strategic plan states, it is a goal for us to “provide innovative education that develops the skills necessary for success within an increasingly complex contemporary world, where information is readily available but wise use of that information is critical for human flourishing.”
The UST Libraries take seriously our role in helping to achieve that strategic objective.
Other areas where we will look to improve the libraries include updating library furnishings and addressing space issues in the Minneapolis campus library.
UST Libraries would like to thank all of you who responded to our survey and assure you that what we’ve learned with your help will make library services even more effective in the coming years.