Libraries must continually evaluate services, procedures, staffing, and other library operations, and make changes whenever necessary, in the hopes of making the library better for both the organization and its customers.
(Casey and Savastinuk, 2007, p. 14)
The objective for this plan is to form a library taskforce (Feedback 2.0) that will explore, research, and develop a cycled approach to creating a formal feedback system, aka what Connaway (2015) calls a user-centered assessment. Within this cycle, each stage will have sub-objectives:
- Soliciting feedback from our users
- Regularly reviewing the feedback
- Responding timely to feedback
- Systematically and strategically implementing new services based on feedback
The impetus behind this plan came from both the insights in this course, and ironically, an email that was sent through our primary (and practically only) regular feedback collection method, the Kennedy Library’s email address. A librarian at UNC Wilmington sent a request for more information about the methods we use to compile, respond, and track complaints. True, while most feedback that comes into this email address is a complaint of some type, if we were more user centric in our feedback mechanisms and in turn made improvements based on feedback that came in no matter the size or frequency, would we begin to see a shift in the type of feedback we receive? Would it become more valuable and drive us into thinking more futuristically about our services and in turn be user-centered?
Kennedy Library’s Community
The Robert E. Kennedy Library serves the Cal Poly student population of just over 20,000. The building is over 30 years old and was built in the time when the student body was less than half of what it is now, collections were physical, and having food could get you kicked out. Over these thirty years, users expectations have evolved around technology, the physical building, and the library’s services.
However, the only new additions to our feedback system include a generic firstname.lastname@example.org email address and various social media accounts, both which still require the person providing the feedback to provide their personal contact information, which may dissuade some users from providing feedback. The only anonymous feedback mechanism we have is the very sad feedback box at the front desk, and our annual online satisfaction survey. None of these mechanisms has a component built in for reviewing the feedback, responding to the feedback, and evaluating the feedback for trends to make improvements for our users. Our community deserves better from the 2014 ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries winner!
As Pewrainangi (2014) urges us, we should focus on the most valuable constituent group to us. The community that is most valuable to provide us meaningful feedback are our library fans. These are the users that <3 us, post about being at the library on their social media accounts, follow and share of our social media posts, engage with us in comments, and attend our events regularly. This is the community to engage with for obtaining honest feedback that is meaningful and will help us to become even better.
Action Brief Statement
There are two groups to obtain buy-in from for this plan:
Convince the Cal Poly student community that by providing the library feedback on their experiences they will be valued for their contributions, which will improve the services the library provides because they are directly relevant to our community.
Convince library management that by creating a dedicated taskforce that develops a feedback cycle mechanism they will help develop a culture of continual improvement, which will ensure the library will receive campus funding because it is actively striving to ensure it provides the most relevant and needed services to the campus student body.
Supporting Evidence and Resources
MIT Library Idea Bank
Asking the right User Experience Questions
Library evolution & design
Identifying community interest in items available for loan
User-Centered Assessment – Research by OCLC
Measuring and evaluating progress with library services
Responding to Feedback
How to earn your users trust with your service evaluation
Improve using Feedback
Anythink Library Strategic Initiative 3 – We Understand and Collaborate with Our Community
Piloting services that fail so you can improvement
Mission, Guidelines, and Policy
The mission of the Feedback 2.0 taskforce is to explore, research, and propose a formal feedback mechanism that actively encourages meaningful feedback from our users in easy, low effort ways; thoughtfully engages staff in regularly reviewing what our users are telling us about our services; creates a mechanism for responding to feedback in a customer service driven manner; and creates opportunity for on-going assessment and planning using the feedback obtained.
Guidelines for developing this taskforce might best be created by following the Three Branches of Change model proposed by Casey and Savastinuk (2007). The branch for this Feedback 2.0 taskforce is best described as their Planning Team, which will further explore the feasibility of the Feedback 2.0 plan, create an implementation plan, and suggest a review/evaluation of services plan going forward. An secondary committee, the Review Team, would be valuable in executing this plan, and would recommend to the library management team how this Feedback 2.0 program continue.
Policy for this Feedback 2.0 concept would ultimately be developed by the taskforce. Much of the policy around how feedback is received, standards and guidelines for the voice used in responses, how timely response is made, and whether any management approval is needed at any level for a response, should all be set by the taskforce that is researching and proposing the ultimate plan that is put forward for consideration. Each of these components should be addressed in the taskforce’s proposal.
Every service a library rolls out will have some form of resource requirement and this plan is no different. Initially, staff time (labor cost) away from regular duties will be required by the taskforce in order to perform research, explore options, meet regularly as a group, and jointly develop a formal proposal to the management team. In the secondary phase after the proposal is accepted by the management, implementation costs will need to be budgeted. Costs to the project in the implementation phase will potentially include software purchases or licenses if a formal feedback tool is purchased, or staffing costs if something in-house is developed. Staffing costs will continued to be in the form of release time from regular duties for taskforce work and feedback response time. However it is highly recommended the Planning Team would include an on-going sustainable model for integrating these methods into regular work duties, building the desired user-centered assessment culture among all library staff.
Funding considerations for the student population should include participation incentives. On our campus, pizza goes a long way to obtaining larger crowds and getting students to show up. Including relevant incentives funding for this population should also be included in the taskforce’s proposal.
Action Steps & Timeline
As there is no formal feedback program in place currently for the library, this creates a unique opportunity develop a plan that is comprehensive, well researched, and thoughtfully developed. As the plan is also meant to be iterative in nature, piloting various feedback methods would be very valuable and would allow the library to identify the most effective ways to interact and engage with our student community. The timeline for planning should take no longer than six months, providing time for taskforce members to perform individual and group research for feedback methods across libraries and similar institutions, and develop a proposal for the first phase rollout. Library management should approve the taskforce’s proposal with very little feedback, recognizing the plan will be iterative and continue to be evaluated for relevance and usefulness.
Potential staffing & training: Considerations for the taskforce
- Research the potential benefit in hiring a dedicated Community Engagement staff person
- Develop a core competency for all library staff around evaluating and responding effectively to feedback. Find tools and trainings for staff to learn these newly required competencies (See Anythink’s Staff Core Competencies)
- Provide staff release time to participate in the planning taskforce, review committee, and pilot projects
- Develop on-line training guides through the university’s online employee professional development training system
- Develop recommendations for supervisors to provide appropriate release time for trainings in new feedback culture
Promotion & Marketing
Returning to Pewrainangi’s (2014) idea of our most valuable community, considering our power users:
“When do they use the library? How do they get to the library? What do they do on their way to the library? What do they do after they leave the library? Who do they come to the library with? What are their favourite websites, music, sports, celebrities, television programmes, food? Which library services do they use and don’t use?How often do they use the library? Do they place requests, have fines, or return books late? What else would they use the library for, if they could? “(p. 9)
Thinking about these traits of our library power users will allow us to find ways to promote and market the Feedback 2.0 services where they are, using methods they are already using regularly, and hopefully engage friends and fellow students to also participate! The taskforce should consider building these research components into the proposal.
Evaluation, aka continual process improvement
Throughout the past decade the Kennedy Library has performed regular satisfaction surveys. Typically we obtain less than 10% of the student body response rate (between 1500-2500 responses). Success after implementation of a formal feedback program would be to at least be regularly receiving feedback from 25% of the student body for our mass feedback solicitation efforts. As highly encouraged component of the plan includes building in a regular evaluation component for continual process improvement, if 25% response rate is not being regularly achieved in our larger feedback outreach efforts, we should review how to improve, and use those ideas for the next push. This will ensure that “Plan, Implement, and Forget” (Casey and Savastinuk, 2007) does not occur with this process. It will also ensure that the change in culture that will drive the Kennedy Library to become a library that is user-centered and focused around all of it’s services (Casey and Savastinuk, 2007).
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