To make informed decisions about how to renovate our informal study spaces, we set out to learn how library visitors use the building on a day-to-day basis. We spent a year conducting research to help us discover which aspects of the library are most appreciated and should be preserved, as well as identify the best places to focus on improvement.
We gathered data in a variety of different ways:
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University Library has used this informal method of data collection to analyze student perceptions of the library. Each year, the library collects notes from students responding to the questions of "What do you like or dislike about the library?" This assessment effort has yielded more than 7,000 student opinions about all aspects of the library. Extracting just the notes relating to the building and study space, librarian researchers were able to identify common themes to help direct goals of the renovation.
Moving throughout the third and fourth floors at regular intervals, we used iPads to anonymously observe group sizes, seating preferences, study behaviors, and activities. We glimpsed firsthand how over 10,000 individuals interacted with each other and utilized library spaces to study, socialize, learn, and relax.
We posed questions to library visitors using white boards to elicit their opinions about various facets of the library. We asked where they chose to sit, what they thought could be improved about the library, what activities they intended to engage in while visiting, and where they felt most productive. Over 800 comments filled eight white boards across the third and fourth floor.
In the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters, we solicited responses from students who visited the library during final exam week, using a survey instrument borrowed from the University of Washington Odegaard Library. In more than 1,000 responses we heard feedback about where students visit in the library, what they’re doing in those spaces, how long they stay on average, their majors, favorite features or services, and much more.
In cooperation with the Office of Institutional Research and Decision Support, we created a separate student survey distributed via email. With IRDS support we were able to reach a broader segment of the student population. This survey gave us valuable, detailed information about our visitors and their study habits, but also helped us to think about what kinds of improvements or amenities we might consider that would be attractive to students primarily studying elsewhere on campus.