Focus on Assessment: Spring 2019 Update

By: Steve Borrelli

As we ring in the New Year, I want to look back at some highlights from fall 2018 assessment projects and look forward to what we hope to accomplish in spring.

Ithaka Faculty Survey

In the spring, the Libraries conducted the Ithaka Faculty Survey. Over the summer, Assessment invested in Tableau data visualization software and through the summer months visualized the results with interactive graphs.  Throughout the fall, Assessment partnered with colleagues to present the results in brown bag sessions focused on focal areas of the survey. Our last one is scheduled for Jan. 10, from noon to 1:00 pm, in the Dean’s Library Conference Room, when we’ll review the results to the Scholarly Communications Questions with Copyright Officer Brandy Karl. It will also be broadcast over Zoom. Over 800 faculty across 24 campuses completed the survey. Key findings include:

  • 56% of respondents ranked their dependence on the University Libraries between an 8 and 10 (highly dependent), compared with 48% of their peers in the Ithaka National Survey.
  • The majority of respondents would be “fine” if electronic journals replaced canceled print journals
  • Respondents were in broad agreement that librarians contributed significantly to their students’ learning by helping them develop research skills, with 56% noting that this described their point of view very to extremely well

Informing the Message: Collaboration with Development and Alumni Relations

This fall, Assessment partnered with Development and Alumni Relations to inform messaging when working with potential donors by investigating emotional connections to the University Libraries. We ran focus groups with donors, alumni, parents of current students, graduate and undergraduate students (including subsets who identify as “non-library” users) to learn about their emotional connections, awareness of services and to solicit feedback on a draft “vision.” This was the largest focus group investigation to date for the Assessment Department which included nine sessions with over 50 participants. Since about half of participants were outside of State College, we experimented with “virtual focus groups,” conducting many of the sessions over zoom. This partnership resulted in rich data about what matters to different stakeholder groups and will inform Development Board practice. For instance, one alumnus discussed how in his time as a student, the Libraries were a great place to come on a Thursday evening if you didn’t have a date for the weekend. Other key findings include:

Emotional Connections

  • All stakeholder groups communicated a reverence for the Libraries. It was described as “a place for every student,” equalizing access to support and resources regardless of means
  • Parents, alumni, and donors envied the services and resources available to today’s students, describing the University Libraries as the type of library they wished they had as students

All stakeholder groups value the library for providing a conducive work environment

  • Students have plenty of options for finding noisy places to work and highlighted the conducive work environment above all other factors, valuing the Libraries as it “symbolizes learning”
  • Alumni recalled visiting the Libraries for the same reasons as current students, to escape from the distractions of their dorms and a place where they could be productive

Library as a service provider

  • Parents noted the convenience and usefulness of the Libraries as a center for co-located services, which enabled students to address multiple needs in one place. They supported services targeting “problem-solving” for early career students
  • Donors highlighted how the Libraries met students’ academic and future workplace needs through exposure to technologies and services that were transferable to workplace contexts

This spring, in addition to the projects we conduct annually we plan to:

  • Conduct the Ithaka Graduate Student Survey. We expect to administer the survey in March. This survey will complete our first cycle of user surveys (undergrad, grad, faculty) after which we’ll start the cycle again
  • Partner with Political Science Librarian Andrew Dudash to conduct a needs assessment investigating undergraduate research experiences of political science graduate students to learn how these experiences prepared them for graduate work. This project has received IRB approval and will launch in February
  • Partner with colleagues at the Abington Campus to investigate space improvements