Like most academic libraries, the Grinnell College Libraries have collected data of various kinds to assist in planning, developing, and evaluating library programs and services. The Libraries report ca. 200 data items to four state and national surveys for aggregation and comparison with other academic libraries. We are beginning to use this transactional data in new ways, developing new tools for collecting feedback from our users, and—most important—placing greater priority on responding to that feedback through formal planning.
The Libraries have a history of seeking feedback from users. Since at least 1995 we have solicited comments from students who use the "Library Lab" consultation service, and a "feedback" button has been part of the Libraries' Web site from its beginning. We solicited faculty and student feedback for the design of the Interactive Instructional Facility (1997-98) and the Computer Commons (2007) in Burling Library, and for design and selection of seating (2003-2006) in Kistle Science Library. We instituted a "student comment" bulletin board in Burling Library in 2007, and the Librarian of the College responds directly to most postings. We have also made organizational changes to increase communication between the Libraries and the faculty (through our reorganized "consulting librarian" program)-- http://www.lib.grinnell.edu/research/consultinglibs/-- and between the Libraries and students (through a reorganized and expanded Student Educational Policy Committee)-- http://www.lib.grinnell.edu/general/Departments/sepc.html. This gives us a strong foundation on which to continue to build.
In February and March 2007, the Libraries surveyed the entire Grinnell College community to find out how well we are serving campus needs. We used a national survey instrument, LibQUAL (http://libqual.org/), which measures the gaps between minimum expectations for library service at Grinnell College, desired level of service, and perceptions of the actual service levels. The data and conclusions gathered from that survey were presented in a Faculty Meeting and posted on the Libraries' Web site (http://www.lib.grinnell.edu/general/LibQUAL/index.html), and served as the basis for our planning efforts in 2007 and 2008. As a result of LibQUAL and our annual planning, we have begun to develop a more systematic program which builds assessment into each of our programming goals. For instance, we are collecting usage statistics with tools such as Google Analytics in order to assess how our digital collections are used and for planning the development and improvement of Web-based materials we develop. Additionally, we are beginning to examine records of interlibrary borrowing and lending, electronic database and journal use, and book circulation for patterns that might guide decisions on undertaking new subscriptions, allocating staff, or re-locating little used library materials. Beyond formal, empirical assessments, we will continue to discuss our ideas with students and faculty groups across campus and look for other ways to solicit formative feedback. And twice each year, we will continue to bring together all library staff and student representatives to identify short-term and long-term goals for library service based on the information obtained through both formal and informal feedback.
Because we emphasize information literacy in this report, focusing on ways to assess its effectiveness is particularly important. We should more deliberately assess the effectiveness of our instructional sessions for individual students as well as entire classes. Additionally, we plan to assess the impact of our instruction within academic departments and to consider the effectiveness of our overall information literacy program. We are beginning our work with academic departments to articulate information literacy expectations for majors, upon which instruction sessions can be collaboratively designed and assessed. In August of 2008, incoming first-year students took the Research Practices Survey (RPS) which provides baseline indicators of information literacy experiences, attitudes, approaches, and skills. We are planning to administer this survey to each incoming class and then again as an exit survey to fourth-year students beginning in 2011 (http://www.stolaf.edu/offices/ea/Assessment/ResPracSur/FacultyInfo.htm).
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