On Monday, March 28, the Colgate University Library Department launched a library space survey, meant to determine how students use library facilities and assess levels of satisfaction. There was a $100 dollar Visa gift card incentive offered to one student per class year for those who took the survey.
Associate Professor and Head of User Services in the University Libraries Matthew Smith offered further insight into the purpose of the survey and its intentions, as well as preliminary observations about the findings.
“We exceeded our target sample size. We were going for a 10 percent sample. That we got that many [students responses], I’m pretty pleased, and that’s, to my experience, a pretty valid sample,” Smith said.
The survey closed on April 11. Due to the amount of data that still needs to be coded, Smith was unable to speak to specific trends and potential changes to come.
“We really just wrapped this, and it’s a busy time of year for everyone, so we haven’t really had a chance to dig into the data other than glance at some early themes,” Smith said.
One apparent trend, however, was that the study carrels are the most popular study space and that library usage peaks at 3 p.m. on Sundays.
There were several reasons for the survey. Colgate University’s Board of Trustees pushed for an evaluation since the Case Library and Geyer Center of Technology, as most recently renovated, is approaching 10 years of use.
“As we’re about 10 years in the building now, we haven’t really done a broad systematic assessment of the space yet,” Smith said.
The survey used a model endorsed by the Association of College and Research Libraries for the assessment of library spaces. It is a flexible model that can be tailored to the needs of each school’s library space.
A few of the suggestions for changes that students voiced in the survey range from the food service (which is not directly in the hands of library staff, as they merely allow the café space to be used by a third party company) to complaints about the need for more men’s toilets. Students also requested more “soft-study space” and for the library to open earlier on the weekend.
As the data is examined more thoroughly in the coming months, much more complex information will be provided. Ultimately, Smith explained that suggestions do not translate to direct and immediate change. They merely bring attention to potential areas of improvement. To illustrate this point, Smith discussed observational data about how library space is used, and how that translates into policy changes.
“We can look and say 3 p.m. Sunday is the busiest time in the library, period. When the SGA comes and says, ‘I want longer hours on the weekend,’ I can say, ‘I only get two percent of my entire building use on Saturday.’ I’m really hesitant to open longer hours when there is virtually no one in the building, and there hasn’t been,” Smith said.
Smith hopes that this process will become an ongoing survey completed every few years so that information can be gathered on changes made and to look at other areas of need.
“I think we can do a lot with this [survey data] and continue to improve the library, maintain those things that we’re doing well and improve areas we can do better,” Smith said.