February 1st, 2008
Four WVU students gained some real-world experience while helping the WVU Libraries better understand how users perceive the Libraries.
The team studied three years of survey results for the WVU Libraries and presented their analysis during a session at the American Libraries Association’s mid-winter conference in Philadelphia in January. Their efforts won applause from about 50 academic library administrators from around the country.
“The students did an incredible job from start to finish,” WVU Libraries Dean Frances O’Brien said. “They did a thorough job analyzing the data, and they impressed a roomful of deans and directors with their presentation at the conference. Both are difficult tasks, even for professionals in the field.”
A team of WVU marketing seniors shined during their presentation at the American Library Association mid-winter conference in Philadelphia. Pictured are Frances O’Brien, Dean of the WVU Libraries; Angela Julien, marketing senior; David Hughes, marketing senior; Martha Kyrillidou, Director, American Research Libraries Service Quality Programs; Amanda Benson, marketing senior; Ryan D’Souza, marketing senior; and Dr. Paula Bone, marketing professor.
Those accolades go to marketing seniors Amanda Darby, Bruceton Mills; Ryan D’Souza, Morgantown; David Hughes, Skippack, Pa.; and Angela Julien, Bear, Del., who were recruited by Dr. Paula Bone for the project. O’Brien approached Bone, a marketing professor in the College of Business and Economics, last spring about finding a few students to transform pages of survey data into a useable report and then deliver their results to library administration. As the project developed, it came to the attention of the Association of Research Libraries, which invited the group to give the national conference presentation.
Despite a few initial butterflies, the students left the stage feeling good about their performance and their research.
“It went fabulously,” Darby said. “It was a bit intimidating, but once we got started they were all interested in what we had to say.”
Several people took copious notes, and the students fielded nearly two dozen questions from the audience about their work and how to replicate it at other universities. The team also won a few laughs when talking about people using cell phones in the library. Apparently, rampant cell phone use is a universal problem in public spaces.
“It was exciting for other people to see our work and be excited about it as well,” Julien said.
She also believes the team returned to Morgantown feeling more comfortable speaking in front of large groups and more proficient in their field of study. Although they have made presentations to companies as part of class assignments, Julien said, this time their efforts felt different.
“We actually did something that people are able to take away,” Julien said. “We really got feedback, and we’ll see if they’re going to do the things we recommended, which I think is more rewarding than a grade because it’s ongoing. We can see the results and we feel like we made an impact.”
That sense of accomplishment is the result of months of work that began near the close of the spring 2007 semester.
They spent about a month acquainting themselves with the LibQual survey before they read and categorized thousands of the comments and analyzed more than 100 pages of charts, graphs, and numbers. They also talked with O’Brien and spent more time studying in the library to observe and learn more about its offerings.
The students give a lot of credit to O’Brien for being available for questions and to Bone for being a great mentor. They praised Bone for encouraging them to try new things and to not be afraid to make mistakes.
“That’s how we learned a lot,” Julien said. “There was a lot of trial and error.”
Bone expected a positive result from the start when she first learned of LibQual’s connection to ServQual, which is internationally known for service quality and customer satisfaction research.
While she typically enjoys doing projects for the University and non-profits, she especially liked that this project gave the group a rich experience by introducing them to a standard practice in the industry.
“That gives the student an entrée into any service marketing job. They can say, ‘I really understand how to measure quality,’ ” Bone said. “That’s what really struck me.”
LibQual is an online survey that asks participants about their desired, perceived, and minimum expectations of service from the WVU Libraries. During the spring semesters of 2003, 2005, and 2007, the Libraries randomly selected 4,000 students, faculty, and staff to complete the survey.
During that time period, the responses led the Libraries to make several changes including extending library hours to 2 a.m. and adding Eliza’s, a coffee shop, to the Downtown Campus Library.
With three years worth of results compiled, O’Brien wanted to dig deeper into the data and develop a clearer picture of what users think about the libraries’ offerings and recent enhancements.
The report affirmed the enhancements the Libraries have already made and suggested a few additional changes.
Their top recommendation was to increase the number of journal holdings for each discipline. Along with that, it was suggested to work to increase awareness of existing offerings. Many people voiced frustration in the survey over materials that they didn’t know the Libraries already owned.
A second recommendation addressed computer access. It called for designating a cluster of computers for 15-minute intervals that would allow students to complete tasks such as print papers or check emails. A third recommendation was to do more to promote the Libraries’ cell phone policy, which directs people to stairwells to talk on phones.
“We all understand more about LibQual now, thanks to the students’ work,” O’Brien said. “The strategy grids were especially useful to see the effects of changes we made. I think the important thing about the survey is to track the results over time, and see if library users continue to be satisfied with our new programs and services.”