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!

Do your students know how to research? S4 Survey reveals student information skills at UofL

By Anita Riley Hall

When your students arrive at UofL, what types of information skills have they already learned? And what skills are they learning while they’re here? These are among the questions the University Libraries sought to answer by participating in the campus-wide Student Support Services Survey (S4) in November 2020. Distributed to all students by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, the S4 Survey asked about our students’ information skills, how and where they learned those skills, and when they are being asked to use them.

As a baseline, we wanted to know how UofL students are using our libraries – do they use the Libraries at all? If so, do they come to the actual building, use the Libraries’ website and other online resources, or a mixture of both?

We were pleased to see that overall, only 11% of students reported that they never use the libraries. Most students reported using the libraries both in-person and online. Undergraduate and graduate students both reported similar usage levels, although the groups used the libraries in different ways. There were a few groups who we discovered aren’t using the libraries as much – in particular, online students and part-time students. We’ll be working hard to improve our outreach to these groups, but if you know that you have these types of students in class, it may be helpful to specifically refer them to library resources when appropriate.

I have used the University Libraries…In-Person OnlyOnline OnlyBoth Online and In-PersonNever
All Responses23%20%46%11%
Online Program4%58%18%20%
Part-Time Students22%33%28%17%

The Libraries asked students to indicate when in their academic career they had been asked to cite certain types of resources, whether before college, in their Cardinal Core classes, or in their major classes. For each type of resource, about a quarter of students reported that they had been asked to cite these types of materials in assignments before college. The most frequently cited resource types before college were non-text sources (such as audio, images, maps, and data) and news or web sources.

What does this mean for faculty? Don’t assume that your students have these skills! Especially for freshmen or sophomores, it is likely that this is the first time they are being asked to cite any type of research, particularly from scholarly or peer-reviewed sources.

I have been asked to complete an assignment or paper that asked me to find and cite…Before CollegeIn at least one of my Cardinal Core classesIn the majority of my Cardinal Core classesIn at least one of my Major classesIn the majority of my Major classes
Sources other than your textbook23.77%18.24%15.72%19.25%23.02%
News or web sources27.31%19.06%14.65%20.48%18.49%
Scholarly or peer-reviewed sources23.24%18.08%15.78%17.93%24.96%
Primary sources (such as archival materials)25.98%20.26%13.73%20.92%19.12%
Non-text sources (such as audio, images, maps, or data)28.93%22.00%11.00%22.00%16.07%

We also asked students who taught them various information skills – and whether they were ever formally taught these skills at all. For each skill that we asked about, the most common person who taught students that skill was you – teachers or professors. Does this feel like a lot of pressure? Our Research and Instruction Department (RAI) at Ekstrom Library as well as librarians at each campus library are available to either teach library instruction sessions for your class, create online learning modules that you can incorporate in Blackboard, or just give advice on how you can approach these topics.

Please indicate who taught you each of the following skills:Self-taught or never formally learnedLearned from a friend or family memberLearned from a teacher or professorLearned from a librarian outside of UofLLearned from a UofL Librarian
Locate books or other physical materials needed for an assignment34.31%7.41%35.00%12.76%10.52%
Locate scholarly, peer-reviewed articles when required for an assignment24.70%5.91%46.96%10.43%12.00%
Develop a research topic for an assignment29.64%6.07%52.50%6.61%5.18%
Cite sources appropriately when required for an assignment26.46%5.82%54.14%7.58%6.00%
Evaluate the trustworthiness of news and other web resources32.69%7.21%46.05%7.73%6.33%

Would you like to learn more about our S4 data, or dive deeper on a particular topic? Contact Anita Hall, Assessment & Analytics Librarian, at We also care about faculty members’ own experiences using the Libraries. Be on the lookout for our Libraries Benchmark Survey later this month (late March 2021) to provide feedback on how you experience our spaces, services, and collections and let us know how we can serve you better!

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!

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!

New University Libraries Faculty: January – March 2013

By Melissa Laning and the new faculty

Melissa Laning is an Associate Dean at the University of Louisville Libraries.

Sarah-Jane Poindexter

Sarah-Jane Poindexter

Sarah-Jane Poindexter

Sarah-Jane Poindexter joined the libraries’ faculty as Archivist for Manuscript Collections/Co-director of the Oral History Center on January 2, 2013.  Prior to joining the University of Louisville Libraries, Sarah-Jane was Associate Curator of Special Collections at the Filson Historical Society where she was responsible for arranging and describing document collections related to local history and assisting researchers with using the collections.  Sarah-Jane has also held positions at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky, and Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, and internships at the Tufts University Digital Collections & Archives and the Boston Athenaeum.  She holds a M.S. in Library and Information Science with an Archives Management Concentration from Simmons College in Boston, MA.   Her B.A. in Anthropology is from the University of Louisville. 

In her current position, Sarah-Jane preserves the cultural memory of UofL and the greater Louisville area by organizing, preserving, and providing access to items of enduring historic value.  These archival items include letters, journals, photographs, oral histories, maps, and architectural drawings.   She is planning an oral history project to document and preserve the history of Louisville’s LGBTQ community.

Before working in archives, Sarah-Jane was an archaeologist at the Public Archaeological Laboratory (Pawtucket, RI) and AMEC Earth & Environmental (Louisville, KY).  She also served as a groundskeeper for Katherine Hepburn. 

Heather Fox

Heather Fox

Heather Fox

Heather Fox was appointed to the faculty on February 4, 2013 as Archivist for Digital Collections.  Her prior professional experience includes serving as Associate Curator of Special Collections at the Filson Historical Society, Project Archivist at the Kentucky Oral History Commission and at the Speed Art Museum, Archival Consultant at Appalshop, Inc., and Data Wrangler at UofL Archives and Records Center.  In each of these positions, Heather was responsible for arranging and describing historical collections in all formats including a born digital collection of the August 2009 Louisville Flood.  In most of these positions, Heather’s work focused on making collections accessible to a broader audience through web technologies. She holds a M.S. in Library Science with a concentration in Archives Management from the University of Kentucky and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Louisville. 

Heather works with the Digital Initiatives Librarian to provide web-based access to digital versions of archival collections and faculty research.  She is currently working on describing and adding images to the Caufield and Shook photograph collection which contains images of Louisville from 1875-1939.

Heather plays in a (mostly) girl garage rock band and co-hosts a weekly garage rock radio show on with UL photo curator Elizabeth Reilly.

Maurini Strub

Maurini Strub

Maurini Strub

Maurini Strub joined the libraries faculty on March 11, 2013.  She previously served as a Reserves Specialist at the Oakland University Library in Rochester, MI and as an Adult Specialist at the Oxford (MI) Public Library.  In addition, Maurini worked on a multi-institutional Sakai Interaction Design Project at the University of Michigan.   Her M.S. in Information is from the University of Michigan and her B.A. in Biology is from Oakland University. 

User Experience and Assessment are relatively new areas for libraries.  As our User Experience Librarian, she will study our how users interact with library tools, spaces and services.   The information she collects will help libraries make user-research based decisions and changes.  Maurini will use qualitative and ethnographic assessment methods to measure the usability, desirability, adoptability, and value of library programs and services.  As the Assessment librarian, she will plan, design, and implement initiatives to measure the effectiveness of the University Libraries in meeting its strategic goals.  It is also her goal to promote the integration of assessment into all phases of planning and services.

Maurini is currently working on analyzing the qualitative responses from the 2012 Benchmark Survey.  This survey was conducted to evaluate how the U of L community uses the library and understand more about their needs.

Maurini was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, where she travels regularly to visit family.