Assignment 6: Collecting and Analyzing Data
The library used for this assignment is the Knox County Public Library. This project will be evaluating the main branch, Lawson Mcghee, which is located in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. This project will specifically evaluate the reference service.
Summarize and report findings (question-by-question) based on data gathered while conducting user-centered assessment/evaluation about your selected PL service. If applicable, provide transcription of data collected as an appendix. (Provide other forms of data collected).
The survey on the public library reference serviced received eleven responses.
1. How old are you?
The answer choices in this question were given in increments of 5 years. There were two responses between the ages of 20-25 and four between the ages of 26-30. One respondent was 46-50. Another respondent was between the ages of 31-35. Three respondents were over 51.
2. Are you male or female?
Two users were male. The other nine users were female.
3. Have you used the reference service?
Six users had used the reference service, while five users had not.
4. If yes, was the customer service you received satisfactory?
The six respondents that had used the reference service replied that the service was satisfactory. One respondent stated that the librarians answered the query promptly.
5. If yes to number 3, were the materials provided adequate in answering your query?
All six respondents said yes. One user stated that they were looking for a book but didn't know the author or title. The reference service was able to help them find it.
6. If yes to number 3, how long did the entire reference interview last?
The six respondents that answered this question had different answers. The shortest interview length was two minutes. The next shortest interview length was five minutes, as reported by two users. The longest was fifteen. The other two respondent's interviews lasted ten minutes each.
7. If no to number 3, why haven't you used the reference service?
One user responded that they had never heard of the reference service, and three users stated that they had never needed to use it before. One user skipped the question.
8. How often do you use the public library?
The most frequent use of the library is once or twice per week. The other respondents all stated that they only use the library periodically. Two users said they use the library once or twice a month.
9. What other services at the library do you use?
One respondent stated that they use the computers at the library frequently. Another stated that they request books and DVDs for pickup. The other respondent stated that they primarily check out books. Another respondent stated that they use the downloadable eBook service, the circulation service, and interlibrary loan. Audiobooks were also listed as a service used by one of the users. The other users surveyed skipped the question.
10. Do you have any suggestions to improve the reference service?
None of the users surveyed provided any suggestions. One user stated they did not have any suggestions because the service was already great.
6.1 Critique and analyze data collected: Discuss and report user feedback about the PL service in terms of their needs and information experiences, availability and access, barriers/challenges faced in using the select service, kinds of benefits in using the service, suggestions for improving the service, etc.
The majority of users that were in the 26-30 age bracket and female had not used the reference service. When asked the reason for not using the reference service, one replied that they were not aware it was an available service. The others replied that they had no need for the service, or they skipped the question. The users in this age bracket primarily used the library periodically in order to check out books they wanted to read, but not buy. It is interesting that this entire age bracket did not use the reference service. It would be beneficial to do further research on this phenomena, to see if the rise of Google during the high school and college years for these people affected their perceived need for a reference service.
One user in the female 26-30 age bracket had used the reference service. They reported that the reference interview only lasted about five minutes. This user also stated that they primarily use other library services. However, they do use the reference service if there is something they need assistance with.
Male users between the ages of 20-25 had used the reference service. The reference interview took them about ten minutes from beginning to end. They were able to get the information they needed, and thought the service was friendly and prompt. The reference interview was reported as lasting about ten minutes. Users in this bracket did not have suggestions for improvement.
Female users between the ages of 20-25 had also used the reference service. The reference interview took this respondent about fifteen minutes. The results were reported as satisfactory. Users in this bracket did not have any suggestions for improvement for the reference service because they said it was already wonderful.
Female users between the ages of 31-35 had used the reference service. This survey showed that the user frequented the library about once or twice a month. The reference interview was reported as lasting ten minutes. The user primarily used the library for audiobooks.
Female users between the ages of 46-50 reported that they did use the reference service and that they were satisfied with the results. They responded that the reference interview was very short and that they frequently used the library computers.
Users 51+ were both male and female. Only one female respondent had used the reference service. The other two respondents did not use the reference service. One user reported that they had used the service when they were younger, but not recently. It would be interesting to see if the reason the older participants had not used the library was due to accessibility. If the users were substantially older than 51, they may have difficulty becoming mobile. This could impact the amount they use the library services. It may benefit these users to have remote access to the reference service, such as an online chat feature.
Some users may not use the reference service because they already have access to excellent resources. College or graduate students have access to databases through their universities. Therefore, they may not need the public library service to assist them in their research. University libraries also often have a reference service of their own, which could be a reason some users are not frequenting the reference service at the public library.
The reference service offers many benefits for users. For example, the reference service can save time. One user stated that the reference interview was excellent because the service they received was prompt. This indicates that speed is something that is important to this user. If he or she had attempted to find the information on his or her own, it could have taken a substantial amount of time. However, since the librarian is a trained professional and knew where to look, the answer was readily available.
The reference service can also bring peace of mind to users. One user stated that the reference librarian helped he or she find the title of a book they had been interested in reading. Not remembering the title or author of a book is frustrating, and the reference service was able to ease this user's mind and provide the proper information.
6.2 Improvement strategies: Present a plan for improvement strategies to implement in relation to the selected service for the PL to follow based on the data that you collected during this study. Develop a categorization scheme for the improvement strategies under different headings as appropriate (e.g., web representation, training, marketing to users, etc.).
No users surveyed had any suggestions for improvement. However, some users did not use the reference service or even know that it existed. Therefore, the library may want to consider advertising the service more heavily.
The current library website does advertise the reference service. However, it could have more of a presence on social media. The reference service could have its own Facebook or Twitter page that would allow users to submit questions for the reference librarians. Users could also keep up with library news this way.
The library could also consider implementing digital remote access to the reference service. This could be done through a chat feature. Although users can submit reference questions by email, it could take longer than a chat interview would. This would allow users that are not able to travel to the physical library to have their reference questions answered.
All survey respondents that had used the reference service reported that the service was excellent. They also reported that the resources they were given were adequate. Therefore, training is not necessary to improve the existing service. The resources the reference service currently utilizes, such as databases and periodicals, seem to also be beneficial to providing excellent results to user queries.
6.3 Report findings to your PL and provide feedback about their response to your findings.
An email was sent to the public library containing a summary of the results of the user assessment. Janet Drumheller, the reference librarian at Mcghee Lawson Public Library, stated that she is always surprised when people do not know that the reference service exists (J. Drumheller, personal communication, April 17, 2015). She also stated that she believes that there are people in all age groups that do not use the reference service, or even know that it exists (J. Drumheller, personal communication, April 17, 2015). She went on to say that she believes young people can find accurate information online through search engines such as Google. However, the people that rely on Google are "not experiencing the depth and breadth of knowledge that is out there" (J. Drumheller, personal communication, April 17, 2015).
6.4 Critique your process: Discuss and report your process while conducting user-centered assessment in your evaluation action plan and include your observations, what worked and did not work, obstacles and challenges, etc. Provide a discussion of the most interesting facts that emerged during the process.
With online surveys, it is difficult to get people to actually participate in them. They would agree to take the survey, but not actually do it. Paper surveys or face-to-face interviews may have been a better option. It would have been especially beneficial to interview or survey people immediately after they had finished a reference interview. However, that would not include users that do not use the reference service, and could skew the results.
One of the challenges of user assessment is that when users do complete the survey, they often don't give much information. A face-to-face interview may have been better in this situation, because the interviewer could ask follow up questions in order to get more information. For example, if the user is asked about the customer service and replies they were satisfied, the interviewer may be able to ask what parts of the customer service were excellent. This could help clarify the results of the survey.
Another obstacle that could arise when doing user assessment is that some patrons do not want to participate in the survey. The patrons that neglect to submit a survey may have excellent suggestions for improvement of the library. However, if they do not feel comfortable taking part in a survey, the library may never hear their ideas. Additionally, some of the users that enjoy giving feedback may be users that had a rare bad experience with the reference service. This could skew the results in a negative direction.
One of the most surprising results of the survey was that one user did not know what a reference service was, or that the library had a service to assist with research. It seems common knowledge that libraries offer this type of service, but clearly it is not. Therefore, the library should definitely increase advertisement of the reference service. Unfortunately, budgets may make increased advertisement difficult. A way around this could be to increase the library's social media presence and allow library volunteers to monitor the sites, which are usually free to sign up for.
Contact K.C. Williams451 Communications Building, 1345 Circle Park Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996-0341