Learning from the 2021 Libraries Benchmark Survey

By Anita Hall

The University Libraries bi-yearly Benchmark Survey is one of the primary ways we get feedback from the UofL community, to help us improve our services, collections and environments. This survey has existed in some form since 2001, and our most recent survey was conducted in April 2021.

We work with UofL’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness to administer the survey, and they generate a random sample of about 50% of the university community. We sent the survey to 11,834 people and received 1843 responses, for an overall response rate of 15.6%. This year’s survey included questions about how often UofL students and faculty use the libraries, how well we are doing at achieving high-level organizational goals, and how well we are meeting the needs of the university community. There is also room for open-ended comments, which often give us some of our most valuable feedback.

So, what did we learn?

Overall, it seems like we’re doing pretty well. The vast majority (87.47% or 1,612) of respondents said that they have used the Libraries in some way during the past year. Of course, due to the pandemic a lot more people were using the Libraries virtually than in previous years, but we were very happy to learn that so many people were still finding ways to use our collections, services, and spaces. For people who said they did not use the Libraries, the top reason was that they just haven’t needed to, but will when the need arises. We also asked respondents to rate the Libraries overall on a scale of 0 to 10, and the average score was 8.32. This is up slightly from 2018, so we’re happy to see that we are making improvements! We also scored well on other measures of how well we are meeting our high-level goals (see chart below), and most people say that our collections, services, and spaces are meeting their needs.

Please rate your agreement with the following statements on a scale of 0 to 10:Mean Score
The UofL Libraries provide the information resources I need for my work or study8.3
The UofL Libraries help me stay abreast of developments in my field(s) of interest.7.66
The UofL Libraries provide resources and collections that represent me and my identity.7.55
In general, I am satisfied with library support for my learning, research, and/or teaching needs.8.35
The UofL Libraries provide space that inspires study and learning.8.04
The UofL Libraries provide space that is inclusive and welcoming to the entire University community.8.24
In general, I am satisfied with the spaces and facilities available at the UofL Libraries.8.14
The UofL Libraries’ staff interacts with students or faculty in a caring fashion.7.9
The UofL Libraries as an organization show a commitment to anti-racism.7.46
The UofL Libraries support me in developing the information skills I need in my work or study.8.02
In general, I am satisfied with the service that I receive at the UofL Libraries.8.47

Even though these top-level results are pretty positive overall, we really want to learn where we need to improve. One thing we look for is differences between different groups of respondents (some obvious ones like Faculty versus Graduate students versus Undergraduates, as well as some really specific groups like “people who say group study spaces are important to them”) to see if the overall data is masking anything that might be an issue for certain people. We also look at what types of things people say they either don’t use or didn’t know about, to see where we should be doing more outreach or getting more feedback. And we perform qualitative data analysis on all of the comments that we receive (2,537 this year!) to look for recurring themes, issues, and suggestions.

For example, we asked specifically “How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your experience using the UofL Libraries?” and there were 803 comments in response to this question. You can see a breakdown of some of the trends from these responses below. Many people told us that they used the libraries less in-person, or not at all, and that they increased their usage of our online resources (or used these exclusively). People also had a lot of feedback (both positive and negative) about the impact of safety protocols and service changes on their experience. Of course, references to the pandemic permeated throughout comments on the entire survey, and there were actually many more references to pandemic-related changes than just the responses to this single question.

  • Q27: How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your experience using the UofL Libraries? Most Common Themes:
    • Less or Zero In-Person Usage: 333
    • More or Exclusively Online Usage: 154
      • Both: 44
    • Experience Unchanged: 122
    • Impacted by Safety Protocols: 159
    • Impacted by Service Changes: 65
    • Impact on Groups or Crowds: 52
    • More In-Person Usage: 19

A lot of times the Benchmark survey results are really a starting point for doing more research – for example, if we see that something isn’t meeting people’s needs, we want to learn more about the specific issues and possible solutions that we could implement. We’ll be continuing to analyze the 2,021 Benchmark data and conduct follow-up research over the next 18 months or so, and then it will be time for the next survey before we know it!


One Comment on “Learning from the 2021 Libraries Benchmark Survey”

  1. […] Learning from the 2021 Libraries Benchmark Survey (University of Louisville Libraries) […]


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