Biennial Benchmark Survey helps University Libraries improve.

By Anita Hall, Assessment Librarian

The University Libraries Benchmark Survey, released in February, is one of the primary ways we obtain feedback from the UofL community. It covers all of our campus libraries, and has existed in some form since 2001.

We do our best to read every comment and make real improvements to the campus libraries each time this survey goes out. Sometimes the results show clear areas for improvement, such as the need for more electrical outlets, or for creating graduate study space, or for beefing up journals in certain subject areas. Often the Benchmark survey results are a starting point for more research. For example, if we see that something isn’t meeting people’s needs, we learn more about the specific issues and possible solutions and use the time between surveys to do that follow-up work. Either way, we’re committed to listening, learning, and evolving to better serve the University community.

Our most recent survey was conducted in April 2021, when we made a major update to the survey instrument. 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. Not everyone receives a survey and we are dependent upon those who take time to fill it out.

What did we learn that last time around? Overall, it seems like we’re doing pretty well. The vast majority (87.47% or 1612) of 2021 respondents said that they have used the Libraries in some way during the prior 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 was up slightly from the previous survey, so we were happy to see that we have been making improvements!

Orange backdrop with the text Take the Benchmark Survey, with the word Survey in a large speech bubble

We learned that people were struggling to find group study spaces, and added additional group study rooms on the second floor of Ekstrom. We’ve updated the lighting in the Art Library. We’ve been hard at work adding diverse materials to the collections at all campus libraries. We’ve made updates to the website, including a big refresh of the Archives & Special Collections site.

We’ll update you soon about the feedback gleaned in this year’s survey. Until then, we appreciate your input!

Ekstrom Overnight Hours Reduced Temporarily

Library to Resume 24/7 Schedule after Security Contract Negotiated

Ekstrom Library will reduce its nighttime hours for the first weeks of the Fall semester while the University seeks to hire an outside security firm to provide overnight service. After a firm is hired, the Library will resume its 24-hour, seven-days-a-week schedule.

In June, ULPD notified Libraries administration that a staff reduction prevented it from providing overnight security coverage in Ekstrom, forcing the library to close during those hours at the beginning of the Fall semester. However, the University recently agreed to cover the costs of contracted security services so that the library could resume its 24/7 schedule. UofL Procurement will review proposals from outside security firms and make a hire in the coming weeks.

University Libraries Dean Bob Fox stressed the importance of continuing 24/7 operation in Ekstrom, as this is a longstanding priority for students.

“We’ve learned over the years how important this issue is for students and we have been doing all we can to open the library back up for the longer hours,” said Dean Fox. “It’s wonderful that the University is funding outside security so we can resume 24/7 service.”

For hours at all University Libraries, visit:

Libraries Updated and Refreshed for Fall Semester

Several University Libraries are set to welcome back students for the Fall semester 2021 with refreshed interiors, accessible facilities, upgraded study areas, and new furniture.

Ekstrom Library 2nd Floor 

Ekstrom Library has seen a number of projects over the past year. Most recently, a portion of the second floor was upgraded, creating new private study rooms, small conference rooms, and additional study space near the former offices of the Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice. Currently occupied by the UofL Honors Program, the private study rooms will become available sometime in the coming year when Honors moves to a new location. Large group study tables have been installed in the southeast section of the floor, allowing the third and fourth floors to remain devoted to quiet study. Additional upgrades are planned through the Fall semester 2021.

Group seating
Group seating on Ekstrom’s 2nd Floor.

Opened in January of 2021, Ekstrom’s first gender-neutral bathroom is handicapped-accessible and includes a changing table, and is conveniently located on the second floor in the west wing, which is opened 24/7 during the Fall and Spring semesters. Likewise, the library’s first lactation room opened recently in the same area, offering 24/7 availability, in a project spearheaded by the Commission on the Status of Women (COSW).

Lactation room on Ekstrom’s 2nd Floor west side.

Additionally, over the next few months, space on Ekstrom’s third floor will be upgraded to accommodate a Jewish Studies Reading Room. Funded in part recently by an anonymous donor, the Reading Room will display works by Jewish scholars and about Jewish heritage and culture, include upgraded study and presentation space, and allow authors and scholars to offer talks and discussions in upgraded space separate from the main floor.

Art Library

At the Bridwell Art Library, a donation from Guy and Libbye Montgomery allowed the library to purchase equipment to upgrade its collabora­tive study and research room. Pur­chases included a new Apple computer, a wall-mounted television monitor, a wireless keyboard and mouse, and a web conference camera. The pur­chases allow visitors to mirror screens using their laptop, tablet, or phone. Room 102C can be used as a conference room, library instruction classroom, and individual or group study room. This space is a great option for faculty meetings, thesis and dissertation defenses, and appointments with students – even in a virtual environment, thanks to the web conferencing camera and software. For students, this is a great option for group study.

Art Library conference room.

Kornhauser Health Sciences Library

Kornhauser Health Sciences Library, in addition to adding a large new sign on the outside wall, added a card reader system at the entrance of the library, new furniture on the second floor, and new flat panel televisions in all study rooms.  The library also instituted a room reservation system. 

Rountree Medical Library

Inside the University of Louisville Hospital, Rountree Medical Library has undergone a renovation to its office, adding a new entry desk, new carpet, a small kitchenette, new couches and shelving for its collection.

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!

What Students Are Telling Us About How They Use the Libraries

By Anita Hall, Assessment Librarian

An incredible number of students visit our libraries every day, whether in person or online. We’re always trying to understand how they use the Libraries and how we can improve their experience. One way we get this feedback is through surveys. Recently, we participated in a campus-wide survey of students called the Student Support Services Survey (S4), conducted by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, which gave us lots of great information. Currently, the University Libraries is also conducting its bi-yearly Benchmark Survey to learn about student and faculty habits, needs and wishes in order to improve the Library experience for the University community.

Two students in the 102 alcove in Ekstrom Library

In the S4 survey, one of the things we really wanted to know was how students learn about the Libraries. This helps us decide how to reach out to students. Those who said they do use the Libraries in some way (in-person, online, or both) were most likely to learn about us from a campus tour, orientation, or resource fair (21.54%) or because of a course requirement (21.32%). Campus emails were not particularly helpful – only 1.98% said that they learned about the Libraries in this way. Good to know!

Here are some more of the top ways that students learned about the Libraries:

Which of the following helped you learn about the University Libraries?
Campus tour, orientation, or resources fair21.54%
Course requirement21.32%
A librarian came to my class11.10%
Academic Advisor8.35%
Freshman Guide6.70%
Recommendation from a friend5.49%

We also wanted to know why some students don’t use the Libraries. Most of these students said that they just haven’t needed to yet but will when the need arises (32.20%). Others say that they currently have access to all the resources they need to complete their coursework (22.03%). However, there were some students who said they either don’t know how to use the Libraries or don’t know what kinds of services and resources the Libraries offer (11.86% for each). We’ll be working hard to try and bring those numbers down before the next survey.

Another thing the Libraries wanted to know is what types of information skills we can help with. We asked how confident they are at several different tasks. Most students feel pretty confident with all of them, which is great. Below is a snapshot of the tasks that some said they are either not at all or not very confident in completing. We also asked questions about how and when they learned these skills, and their responses to those questions will help us work with professors to support them in teaching these skills. This might involve librarians leading instruction sessions in classes, creating online learning modules for Blackboard, or developing some of our own resources that can be accessed anytime. A great example of this is our Citizen Literacy resource, which has lots of great information about evaluating news sources.

Please rate your confidence in completing the following tasks:“Not at all Confident” or “Not very Confident”
Locate books and other materials required for an assignment9.41%
Locate scholarly, peer-reviewed materials when required for an assignment5.02%
Develop a research topic for an assignment5.06%
Cite sources appropriately when required for an assignment3.72%
Evaluate the trustworthiness of news and other web sources3.31%

Are you interested in providing more feedback about the Libraries? One great way is to join the Libraries Student Advisory Board. We’re always accepting new members! The Libraries will also be sending out our Benchmark Survey later in March 2021 – we have been using this survey for almost 20 years to get feedback about our spaces, services, and collections. This survey goes to a sample of the University community, so you may or may not receive a survey invitation. Watch your UofL email, and if you get one, please answer it! We really appreciate your time and responses.

Seeking Your Opinion on Ekstrom Renovation

By Maurini Strub
March 23, 2017

It’s been over a year since the east wing of the 1st floor of Ekstrom Library was renovated.  We hope that during this time you’ve enjoyed using the space, and maybe discovered a new favorite spot.

Before the renovation, we collected feedback on your needs, desires and difficulties, and that data helped inform the design of the space. Design solutions include a clearly identified, “one-stop shopping” service desk; enhanced technology support and printing services; an intuitive approach to the layout of services and spaces; and a mixture of learning and study spaces.DSC_0045

Assessing how well we met our goals is the focus of a survey we’ll be conducting through April 25.  As you walk through the first floor-east, you’ll see some questionnaires, and a large red box as you enter the east lobby (see photos).


The survey seeks to discover your satisfaction with these improved learning spaces, how these spaces have impacted your success at UofL, your experience using our services, and the value of collocating some of our primary services. Concurrently, we’ll conduct periodic observations and review collections usage data.


We’d love to hear about your experience in these new spaces. Please feel free to complete this very short questionnaire or fill out the paper one and leave it in the red box in the lobby!

Join the Libraries Student Advisory Board!

By Maurini Strub
July 9, 2014

Have you heard about the Libraries Student Advisory Board (LSAB).  No?  Well here’s an opportunity to get engaged and shape your library.

About us
The board was started in 2011 to help the libraries learn more about our users and our community and meet their evolving needs.  It also allows the libraries to explore effective and creative responses to our users’ learning and research behaviors.

What’s involved?
We usually meet 4-6 times per academic year, with each meeting lasting around an hour.  We also expect each member to commit to attend at least 2 meetings per year, attend at least one library event, and utilize one library service that they wouldn’t ordinarily use.

Libraries Student Advisory Board

What do you talk about?
Most recently we’ve been focusing on 1st floor space issues and needs.  But in the past we’ve addressed things like increasing hours, availability of electrical outlets, and quiet study space.

How can I join?
Want to join the conversation? Drop us a line! We’d love to hear from you. All currently enrolled students (that includes you, too, graduate students) are invited to become a member.

We’re Ready to Listen

By Maurini Strub
January 8, 2014

As Ekstrom Library continues to look at its spaces, we’re about to embark on an assessment of the east side of the first floor.   Over the next four months, we’ll be using a variety of methods to look at how people use this space, including:

  • Whiteboards,with a theme or question
  • Quick polls (mini-surveys)
  • Observations
  • Focus groups

To help us better shape this space, we want to learn more about what:

  • Brings you to the library
  • You do or what services you use while here
  • Works well (and what we could be doing better)

You may notice some observations as early as next week; will start seeing the first round of polls and whiteboards around mid January; and, calls for focus group participation by the end of January. Keep an eye out for opportunities to join the conversation!  It’s a chance for you to have your voice heard and influence how we use our spaces. We’re all (eyes and) ears and excited to learn from you!

Easy Ways to Make a Difference

By Maurini Strub
November 6, 2013

At some time in your life at UofL, you may have received a survey from one of the departments in the library.  [It’s even more likely that you’ve participated in a survey from another department.]  When they’re done right, surveys can provide a low cost opportunity to sample a population’s behaviors and attitudes. Currently, we’re analyzing the text responses from the last major survey in 2012. With almost 3700 free-form responses, it’s been quite a task!  But, we’ve finished analyzing the faculty responses, are about 2/3 of the way through the graduate responses, and eager to start on the undergraduate responses.


While surveys provide valuable feedback, often times, they don’t explain why a behavior happens, or clarify/contextualize a response.  For this purpose, the University Libraries utilizes focus groups, observation studies, and advisory boards.  Many times, these qualitative studies require no more than an hour of your time. And, most times we give an incentive for participation!

Currently we have:

  • Completed focus groups with 2nd year medical school students
  • Conducted observation studies in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room
  • An active Libraries Student Advisory Board

Upcoming studies include:

  • Library website usability study
  • Archives and Special Collections focus groups

Why does it matter?
For the Libraries
Collectively, the findings from of each type of study give us a more holistic understanding of user needs & expectations. This, in turn, informs changes that we make to the libraries and their resources.

For you
This is an opportunity for you to not only share where you’ve had successes (or failures) with the libraries and its systems, but share insight as to how you think it can be done differently. I know you’re bursting with ideas! You’ve used other libraries, other sites, and had lots other experiences that have developed your creative muscle.

Additionally, by sharing through these formal channels, your voice will be heard by those empowered to make changes. In fact, we already have implemented changes that came from your suggestions – we’ve increased the number of electrical outlets, increased hours during finals, and most recently created more quiet study space with our 4th floor renovation.

How do I get involved?

  • If you haven’t already done so, connect with us on our social media pages
  • Keep an eye out for our calls for participation – we’ll post them on social media and via other avenues on campus
  • Respond to that call – time involvement can be anywhere from 15 minutes up to an hour

We want to learn from you; we want to listen; and, we want to make your experience better.