Tuesday, October 23, 2007

We Listen! Ball State Libraries' Intercept Surveys Provide Valuable Feedback

Students converged on campus six weeks ago and have settled into the routine of classes, projects, and other activities associated with collegiate life. The doors of Bracken Library are in continuous motion.

Centrally located on campus and offering five floors of space — about the size of seven football fields — Bracken Library is known as the place to study, get work done, or as the place to meet friends and grab a quick bite or a cup of coffee.

Administration at the University Libraries values feedback from the students, faculty, and community members who number, on average, about 4,500 daily. We understand the value in obtaining input regarding the services, collections and programs that are available.

Recently, we designed a short intercept survey with open-ended questions which are useful in providing respondents with opportunities to give candid feedback. Consumer intercept surveys, as the name suggests, aim to intercept consumers in their natural environment and deliver a short structured questionnaire on their habits, preferences, perceptions or behavior. The strategic advantages of consumer intercept surveys are the speed with which they can be conducted, their low cost, the ability to poll a large number of people, and the fact that results can be provided in a short period of time.

The disadvantage of the consumer intercept survey method is that it entails "convenience sampling" meaning that, especially in the case of small samples, results may not be as representative as samples developed through random or stratified sampling. However, intercept surveys remain a powerful technique, and in many cases can approach the reliability of much more expensive and objectively selected samples.

Intercept surveys were given in various locations at Bracken Library on September 18, 2007 in the afternoon and again on October 2, 2007, in the morning. A sampling of the responses follows:

1. When you think of Bracken Library, what immediately comes to your mind? One-half of the respondents mentioned studying, followed by research or help with research, good computers and books.
“I love to come here,” said senior Trent McFalls. “It’s my favorite place to be.”

2. If you were describing Bracken to a friend who has not been here, how would you describe it? The answers ranged from fast computers to citing where the quiet study areas are (3rd and 4th floors) to acknowledging assistance which is always available from friendly librarians.

“I would say to spend time at Bracken to prepare for classes,” said Sara Losin, a senior who is majoring in nursing.

“It is a good place to meet with a group because there is a lot of space. You don’t have to go anywhere else to find what you need,” responded Tara Dragoo, a junior in the elementary education program.

3. What do you particularly like about the library services and/or collections? This open-ended question was designed to provoke specificity. The answers were wide ranging and included the technological resources, the ability to check out laptops, the Libraries’ website, the helpful staff, great location, number of computers, books and resources, and even the floor plan.

Junior Molly Poor added that she appreciates receiving overdue reminder notices by e-mail because “… students are busy and often forget when something is due.”

When the respondents asked what could be changed or improved upon, three-fourths of the respondents could not think of a specific answer. One-fourth of the respondents made a suggestion that will be forwarded to the Dean of University Libraries for review.

For more information, contact Susan G. Akers, Ball State University Libraries’ Marketing Communications Manager, SAkers@bsu.edu, (765) 285-5031.

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