March 22 2018
Buswell Library staff recently released its survey on student satisfaction. While the student survey reported high satisfaction with staff and personnel, availability of resources and the ability to discover new materials while browsing, it revealed dissatisfaction with the library’s building itself and requests for longer hours and more books.
Library Director Lisa Richmond sent the survey to undergraduate and graduate students on February 19. The survey, which is released every four years, asked students how frequently they visited the library, their level of agreement with statements regarding the quality of the library’s resources, service and atmosphere and specific improvements the library can make.
There was a strong response rate of 620 completed surveys, approximately 20.6 percent of the 3000 students who received the survey, according to Joshua Avery, assistant professor of library science and head of teaching and outreach at Buswell.
The responses and comments reflected high student satisfaction with the availability of books, journal articles and research databases, with an average satisfaction level of 5.72 out of 7 for these three areas combined. Respondents perceived library staff and personnel as another asset, strongly agreeing with the statements, “The librarians and/or library staff are responsive to me” and “The librarians and/or library staff have knowledge that is helpful to me.”
One respondent commented, “I study here every day. The subject librarians and other staff are always friendly and helpful.”
Students expressed both praise for the resources available and a desire for more books. Richmond explained that the amount of books available on shelf versus in storage is one of the things academic libraries must always consider.
“A clear advantage of having books in storage is that it costs less to the college than it would if everything were available in publicly available shelving,” Richmond said. “The question is, ‘What is the disadvantage in terms of people’s intellectual and academic experience?’ And that’s really important to us. That’s why we’re here. So this has been really useful data for us as we do our planning, because what we are seeing is a strong support for having things accessible by the individual user.”
Another desire amongst respondents was for the library to have longer hours during the week, remaining open past midnight Monday through Thursday and past 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
“The major challenge to longer hours during the week is staffing it,” said Richmond. “After 6 p.m., only student workers staff the library. And they do a great job, but the later the shift gets its harder to get people willing to work.”
Students also requested hours on Sunday. Richmond explained that this decision is made by the Senior Administration Cabinet, which reviewed the policy several years ago and decided to continue keeping the library open only Monday through Saturday.
Regarding this decision, President Ryken said, “The administration wants to encourage a campus climate that honors Sabbath rest as a gift that is still available to believers in Christ. We also want to protect unscheduled personal and family time for employees — time that is free from regular College work. All of our Sunday decisions are judgment calls, not biblical absolutes. In the judgment of the administration, our campus needs more opportunities for rest, not more opportunities for work, which an open library would tend to encourage.”
Dissatisfaction with the building atmosphere was frequently expressed in the survey results and comments, with 22 percent of respondents disagreeing to some degree with the statement, “The library provides adequate space and a pleasing and comfortable environment for studying.”
One student commented, “The building’s harsh lighting, low ceilings and cramped spaces are uninviting.”
“That’s a perfect summary of what the problem is,” said Richmond. “And we totally agree with those comments! We need more space. So we are hopeful that we will be able to improve all these things for future students.”
The library administration is submitting a proposal for a new or expanded building, which would allow space for more group study rooms, improved lighting and atmosphere and more space for on-shelf books. The college’s Board of Trustees will make a decision in May 2018 about whether or not to pursue a new or expanded library.
If the library receives permission to begin planning for this new project, Richmond said that the feedback from this survey will directly inform their planning.
“We really value student feedback all the time, and not just every four years when there is a survey,” said Richmond. “There is a suggestion box in our cafe, where people should feel free to put comments or suggestions. They can also always email us at email@example.com. We would always welcome any feedback, positive, negative or neutral.”
March 22 2018