Looking at the Evidence

I’m looking at library surveys to see what I can deduce about our user education – what we offer, what is taken up, what people want to know more (or less) about, the timing, etc.

I do actually have some documentation for each year from 2009-2016.  However, to make comparisons over eight years is perhaps less helpful than to focus on comments over the past couple of years. E-resource provision and usage has grown, and even looking at a survey from eight years ago would not reflect current practice.

Similarly, if I tabulate a whole lot of detail about the numbers of responses from different categories of reader (undergraduate, postgraduate, postdoctoral, international, Erasmus, full or part-time staff) across the eight years, it’s as much a history of how surveys were structured and answered, as a close analysis of what users’ information skills training needs are/were at any given time.

So, although I started by looking at the demographics, I’m beginning to think that a huge spreadsheet analysing responses to fifteen questions over eight years, along with a variable number of free-text responses, is not the best use of time.


It’s good to know that I can look at the basic data from our Survey Monkey account, because I’m interested to know whether undergraduates and postgraduates differ in their e-resource and other information requirements (eg checking the catalogue).  Unfortunately – but as I expected (because we send out a general survey), I can’t ascertain whether mature students’ experiences are different; whether they’re more demanding or just less experienced; whether they’re generally a little less aware of what’s available; and also, asking students to self-identify as under or postgraduates doesn’t tell us whether students on taught or research postgraduate courses have different requirements.  I’d expect MEd or taught MMus students perhaps to access more journal articles than, say, a doctoral composition student, but their whole information needs profile may well be a little different.  Also, we don’t know about their prior learning regarding library usage or e-resources.

Another interesting possibility is to compare the library questions asked, with the free-text responses.  The library has asked a variety of questions to establish what training students received (which is not quite the same as what might have been offered!) and whether they thought it was enough, at the right time, etc.  The free-text responses are, of course, individual responses, but these provide a more nuanced picture.

I’m inclined to see what I can establish from the 2016 survey, and ask further questions in my peer-group questionnaire of PGCert/MEd students.  I’d like to ask them to self-identify as ‘Definitely comfortable with e-resources’, ‘Fairly comfortable with’, ‘Not very comfortable with’, and ‘Definitely uncomfortable with’ e-resources.

Something else I’m intrigued to find out is whether ‘learning styles’ comes up in anyone’s comments.  Some experts favour using a variety of teaching styles and different media, to accomodate everyone’s learning styles.  Others are dismissive of the whole concept of learning styles – see,

Four neuromyths that are still prevalent in schools – debunked / Bradley Busch, The Guardian, 24.02.2016

After that, I propose to interview one of each category.  My fear is that everyone will say they’d like individual tuition at a convenient evening time!  There’s definitely going to be a balancing point between what the library can reasonably offer, and what might be each person’s ideal form of training.  (After all, even though Currys PC World has the Tech-Guys available during at least waking hours, they’re at the end of a phone and not available face-to-face all that time!  And there are more of them!)



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