How Good Are the GFU Libraries? Results of LibQUAL 2014

In the spring of 2014 George Fox University libraries participated in LibQUAL, a survey that measures patron perceptions of library service. The survey, which was administered through the Association of Research Libraries, has been used at over 1,000 libraries since 2000.  About 600 George Fox students, faculty, and staff completed the survey.

Survey Design

Respondents were asked to rank statements about the level of Affect of Services (staff and services), Information Control (print and online resources, and ease of access), and Library as Place (facility and space) on a scale of 1 to 9.

Each statement was ranked for minimum acceptable level, desired level, and perceived level. Perceived levels that fell between the minimum and desired level are considered within the “zone of tolerance.” Perceived levels falling below the minimum level of acceptability are considered outside the zone of tolerance, and thus problem areas.

Respondents were also asked to indicate frequency of library use, overall satisfaction, and literacy outcomes. In addition, comments were possible through a comments box.

It is possible to analyze scores by:

  • demographic characteristics such as discipline
  • user group (faculty, grad or undergrad student, staff)
  • user sub-group (e.g., freshman, sophomore, masters, associate professor, etc.).

GFU libraries also participated in the LibQual survey in the spring of 2008 and 2011. While format, questions, and scoring were the same in each instance, the survey administered in 2011 and 2014 was the “lite” version while 2008 was the “full survey.” The Lite protocol uses item sampling methods to gather data on all LibQUAL+ items, while only requiring given individual users to respond to a subset of the questions. Thus, data are collected on all questions, but each user answers fewer questions, thus shortening the required response time. Consequently, the Lite version can be completed in much less time and is less burdensome to survey takers. Studies have shown that Lite survey results are valid, and have a higher response rate.

Survey Participants

LibQUAL is a web-based survey; links to the survey were e-mailed to all faculty, staff, undergraduate, and graduate students. The intent was to provide all students and employees the opportunity to respond to the survey whether they were Newberg based and primarily used the Murdock Learning Resource Center (MLRC), Portland Center based and used the Portland Center library (PCL), or “distance” users at remote sites such as Redmond, or were online.

Overall response by user group:

  • Undergraduates: 338
  • Graduate students: 160
  • Faculty: 66
  • Total staff: 36

Some major findings

  • Grouped as a whole, users ranked all aspects of the library within the zone of tolerance. In addition, the specific user groups of graduate, undergraduate, and staff ranked all aspects within the zone of tolerance. There were two areas that faculty ranked just slightly outside of the zone of tolerance, and a third area (print and/or electronic journal collections I require for my work) significantly outside the zone of tolerance.
  • On a scale of 1 to 9, user perception of all aspects of the library was ranked as 7.4. The same survey, administered at George Fox in 2011 and 2008, resulted in ranked scores of 7.27 and 7.25, respectively. “How would you rate the overall quality of the service provided by the library ” was 7.76, compared to 7.52 in 2011 and 7.46 in 2008. Comments related to services were almost universally positive.
  • It was hoped that, given some major changes in Newberg’s Murdock Learning Resource Center, scores would improve in the “library as place” category since 2011. In fact, that improvement did occur. In 2011 the MLRC received a score of 6.76 composite score for all question in the “library as place” category. In 2014 the score was 6.90. In addition, in 2011 the MLRC received a score of 6.95 for the question “a comfortable and inviting location.” In 2014 the score was 7.26. There were numerous positive comments about space changes in the MLRC in 2013.
  • With regard to almost all questions, user expectations were higher at the Portland Center library than at the Murdock Learning Resource Center. Still, when looking at the cumulative results from all users, all PCL scores fell within the zone of tolerance. This difference in expectations might reflect the fact that PCL serves only adult learners, almost all of who are graduate students.
  • Rankings on more specific questions from all users and subgroups are available for review.

Library Responses

  • As indicated above, users are generally pleased with the repurposing of space that has occurred in the MLRC. Also, the score “space for students to study and work in groups” improved from 2011 to 2014, and was within the zone of tolerance. Having said that, the score of 6.96 for this question is relatively low, and there were several requests in the comments section for more group study space/study rooms. Indeed, study rooms are extremely popular as documented through both room reservations data and observation. It is anticipated that additional space re-purposing will occur in the summer of 2015, resulting in five more group study rooms.
  • While several commented that they liked the quiet study spaces of the MLRC, a larger number had concerns about the noise level. Quiet zones and collaborative work zones (i.e., normal speaking voice acceptable) have been created and identified in the library. However, it appears that this does not in all cases meet the need. Better user education between quiet and speaking areas may be required, as well as more enforcement of the expectations in the quiet zones. Concerns for quiet in the quiet zones has been communicated among librarians and staff with the result that we are engaging when/where there are identified problems to assure desired outcomes.
  • As previously noted, a composite score for all faculty rated the library outside the zone of tolerance in providing “Print and/or electronic journal collections I require for my work.” Clearly this is an important area for faculty, who hold higher minimum expectations here than for any other library related consideration. The library will continue to build its journal collection where needed and as finances permit. As a part of this, librarians will continue to work with faculty to identify needs, and also assess use of electronic journals and publisher/vendor options to assure we purchase the most needed titles.
  • There were several comments requesting longer hours at the MLRC. The actual number was quite small, but still this is an issue deserving of attention. During the 2014/2015 academic year the MLRC is adding an extra evening hour to the schedule Monday through Thursday of the last two weeks of each semester, closing at midnight. It is likely that this schedule will be extended to the entire semester in 2015/16.
  • There were no real themes that emerged in terms of needed improvements at the Portland Center. In other words, the same or similar comments that were frequently mentioned. However, there were several comments that spoke to the environment. For example, pointing out the need for more group meeting rooms, the library not being a comfortable place to study, a complaint that the chairs in the study areas are terrible. There are plans to add more study rooms and replace some furniture in 2015, and this should address these concerns.
  • Unlike cumulative scores from students physically attending classes in Newberg or at the Portland Center, a few scores from those who self-identified as distance students were outside the zone of tolerance. When considering this fact, it must be recognized that in some cases the number of responses from distance students was very low, and therefore not necessarily indicating a widely held concern. In addition, scores outside the zone of tolerance are at times reflective of the fact that distance students sometimes have higher expectations than others, although of course that does not mean the library should not try to meet these high expectations. It is worth noting that distance students may not have the opportunity to come to the physical library, and while online help is often available, possibly it is not always available immediately due to the fact that some may be in a significantly different time zone. In any event, the library will endeavor to further publicize and improve services to distance students, however and wherever feasible. This includes conversations with faculty teaching these courses, striving to improve online course guides and embedded tutorials, etc. Librarians are very cognizant of these needs, and are intentional about designing services and resource guides of help to distant students.

Merrill Johnson
Dean of Libraries
March 2015

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