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Syracuse Library responds to user needs with improved services, space and access
Syracuse Library responds to user needs withimproved services, space and accessFebruary 04, 2005Edward Byrnesedbyrnes@syr.edu
When it comes to listening to the needs of customers and providing the services and resources they desire, Syracuse University Library (SUL) continues to strive for excellence. In recent years-but especially since the conclusion of the 2003 LibQUAL+ survey in which SU students, faculty and staff participated to voice their perceptions and expectations of library service quality-SUL staff have been working to improve the services, the space and the access to information within the SUL system across campus.
In late April and early May 2003, Library administrators encouraged students, faculty and staff to participate in this survey to find out how close-or far-the library was to meeting desired levels of service as defined by users. The survey measured user perceptions and expectations of library service quality in four dimensions: “Affect of Service” (the human aspect of service interactions); “Library as Place” (the adequacy of physical public spaces in the library); “Personal Control” (the ease with which users can independently navigate and carry out their research tasks); and “Access to Information” (comprehensiveness, organization, accessibility and ease of acquiring information).
“We knew participation in the LibQUAL+ survey would help us determine which services are most important to library users and identify patterns of satisfaction and dissatisfaction across our user groups,” says Denise Stephens, SU’s interim university librarian.
In 2003, this well-established library survey was completed by almost 130,000 users from 308 institutions in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and the Netherlands. Participating institutions included college and university libraries, community college libraries, health sciences libraries, military libraries, public and state libraries. The survey results that SUL received reflect perceptions of library service performance across all participating institutions, as well as specific findings for SUL.
In-depth analysis of SUL’s survey results began in late summer 2003 and culminated in the 2004 “Report on the Results of the LibQUAL+ Survey,” which is available online at http://libwww.syr.edu/publications/libqual2003_report.pdf.
“Not surprisingly, what we found was that we were doing certain things very well, and other things not so well. We noted those unsatisfactory areas and have been allocating time, people and other resources to make improvements. We’re certainly not done yet,” says Stephens. “The use of the LibQUAL+ survey represents the beginning of an ongoing assessment process to learn from our users how best to serve their information needs.”
Stephens notes that the three previous LibQUAL+ surveys (in which SU did not participate) have consistently demonstrated users’ desires for personal control and access to information in their library experience, while revealing that the Affect of Service and Library as Place areas are of somewhat lesser importance. The same was found to be true at SU.
Ease of access to print and electronic collections were areas marked for improvement. In response, the Library introduced SULinks, a powerful tool that makes library holdings more accessible and saves steps in research. The technology enables users to click on a journal citation listed in a database and link directly to the full text of that article, if the library subscribes to it.
Shortly before the survey, the library unveiled a new web site with an improved design and navigation scheme. More recent changes include a “What’s New” tab on the Databases Main Menu for obtaining current information on new electronic resources, database outages, and trials of databases. SUL’s SUMMIT Catalog has had several enhancements as well: a “New Titles” feature lets users search for new titles that have been added; a feature called “Quick Limits,” lets users limit their search by location (e.g., Moon Library, Special Collections Research Center) or format (e.g., video or map); and a “More Like This” option searches for items similar to the one previously specified.
In an effort to add efficiencies to processes and make more materials available to more users, the interlibrary loan service has reduced, by more than two days, the time it takes to fill requests. E-mail notification of overdue materials has resulted in more timely returns and faster access by other users to the materials. Various cataloging and digitizing efforts have improved access to images, music resources, architectural drawings, government documents, and maps. New efforts to organize collections will make it easier for users to find particular items.
Prior to the survey the library introduced a real-time, interactive, online chat service, LibChat, which gives users immediate online access to reference help. To build students’ skills in conducting their own research and using library resources, the Library is developing an online tutorial. For library staff in public services areas, the library has implemented customer-service training.
Users are now able to produce and manipulate image, geospacial, and numeric data, using the library’s new digital services. To address users’ numeric data and census-related questions and instructional needs the library conducted a national search and hired a numeric data specialist.
Based on user feedback solicited for a 2002 study, the library has begun a major renovation of the first floor of E.S. Bird-including a cafe-to meet users’ needs for a more inviting, comfortable and functional environment. A reading area with soft seating, funded by the Athletics Department, has been added to Bird Library’s second floor. The Science and Technology Library created a space in Carnegie for small-group instruction.
In spring 2004, the Fine Arts Department, with the School of Architecture, added and updated equipment in the Architecture Reading Room, thus improving user access and reference services. This past summer, Media Services installed Macintosh’s Jaguar operating system and Adobe’s Creative Suite (CS) software, giving students and faculty access to the latest equipment for preparing digital resources.
In late 2003 the Library formed an Assessment Team?consisting of Associate Librarians Natasha Cooper, Pamela Thomas and Nancy Turner, and Library Communications Manager Mary Beth Hinton?which has begun to prepare for the 2005 LibQUAL+ survey.
“The 2005 survey will give us a chance to see how all these changes have affected the perceptions of our clientele. We intend to work for continuous improvement,” says Stephens.
LibQUAL+ surveys are sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and developed as part of the ARL New Measures Initiative in partnership with Texas A&M University.