Before the module on hyperlinked communities, I really felt the library I work for does a pretty decent job at engaging our users and soliciting their feedback and then turning it into valuable services. Then I read Aaron Schmidt’s (2016) Asking the Right Questions article…
Before I discuss Schmidt’s article, let me give you some history on our library’s satisfaction survey
You asked, we listened
When I started working in the Kennedy Library in January of 2011, the Student Library Advisory Council (SLAC) was already established and had just started administering a library satisfaction survey to the student body. Throughout the years the questions have remained mostly the same (for trend analysis purposes), with additions or subtractions based on library priorities for the year (i.e. new services added, space renovations, etc.). Each year, the management team would receive a report about the survey and review recommendations for changes in services and programs. We made a lot of changes based on this feedback. And we told the students over and over again “You asked, we listened”. But did we really?
Maybe they mean soup?
We were and are still leaning heavily on survey respondents to dream up the ideas for us when they don’t really know what it is we do. Our previous prompt of “What kind of food would you like to see in the library?” typically provided responses like “better” or “warm” or “not coffee and pastries” and left us and our campus dining folks guessing every year.
– Maybe they mean soup? Let’s offer soup…
So this year I served as a management team liaison to SLAC and rather than the survey being developed by the students, we actually used them as the advisory body the group is intended as and asked them how to ask the questions. While we didn’t change the trend questions, we did take an entirely different approach to the food options question. Rather than leaving it open ended, we provided categories the SLAC group developed and we received excellent feedback:
In my opinion, the answers to these questions were the most valuable from the survey. The comments were more detailed as well:
I would like to see less expensive and fresher food options. I am never willing to buy the plastic packaged wraps and snack packs at Julians even though that is really the only fresh food option because it is too expensive. There should be healthy snacks such as apples, bananas, granola bars, salads, etc at a reasonable price.
Would be nice if there were bagel breakfast sandwiches or breakfast burritos. Would be nice if there were more heavy filling meals. Would be extra nice if prices were affordable.
I would love to see more healthy snack options, particularly energy bars and fruit strips. – Anonymous student feedback (Kennedy Library, 2017)
We sent the feedback to Campus Dining and we are hoping for some food option improvement this year. But we can’t pat ourselves on the back just yet.
How may we help you? Let us start with asking you better questions!
Reading Aaron Schmidt’s (2016) op-ed piece, I realized we’re still really guilty of expecting our users to dream up new ways for us to do things. I laughed when I read Schmidt’s (2016) example of how strange this looks to users from their perspective if say the IRS was asking me “Create a way to improve filing your taxes” (Rethinking Our Approach section, para 2). I certainly have no idea how to improve it and as Schmidt (2016) proposes, it’s because I don’t know how the IRS works, I don’t know all the services they provide and how interconnected their services may be, nor do I understand what resources constraints they have. It’s very logical, but why haven’t we thought of this before? Most of our users only interact with us on a very few of our services. Asking how to improve the whole place is quite an undertaking! We can’t ask library users how to improve the library point blank, and as Schmidt (2017) and also Pewrainangi (2014) suggest, we need to learn about our users daily lives, what is important to them, hobbies and interests, etc.
Surveys aside, our library also has a “suggestion box” at our front desk. The quality of feedback from this box is also pretty much useless to us, and is almost a way we placate our users by allowing to feel that we care. Most likely that’s why we mostly get “it’s hot in here, get some A/C” or “the toilet paper is poor quality”. Stephens (2017) discusses a library in his locality that is taking this feedback to the next level and in turn receiving quality feedback that administrators can and want to respond to. Feedback is posted on a bulletin board with the responses to the questions from library administrators directly below it. A feedback mechanism and an FAQ all in one!
My mind has been thinking about how to make this happen in our library since listening to that lecture and I have a feeling it will require some technology and maybe even offer a senior project opportunity to one of our amazing tech students. Stay tuned!
So while I still feel our library does a good job at soliciting feedback, I now have some useful tools in my kit to suggest going forward!
Pewrainangi, S. (2014). A beautiful obsession. WEVE, 1, 7-10. Retrieved from https://issuu.com/heroesmingle/docs/weve_may_2014
Robert E. Kennedy Library (2017). [Library Satisfaction Survey Results]. Unpublished raw data.
Schmidt, A. (2017, May 4). Asking the Right Questions. Library Journal, 141(8). Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2016/05/opinion/aaron-schmidt/asking-the-right-questions-the-user-experience/
Stephens, M. (2017). The Hyperlinked library: exploring the model. [Panopto lecture]. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=2d0f28cc-2337-4aaf-ae88-4f133c509f67