The faculty response to the Library survey sent in May 2009 was very substantial: 232 full and part time faculty members took time out of their busy end-of-the-academic-year schedules to reply. The response rate was 31% for full-time Villanova faculty and 8% for part-time faculty. Assistant, associate and full professors are all well represented. In addition, part-time respondents accounted for 14% of respondents, a respectable rate of participation given the generally more tenuous attachment of adjunct faculty to the university.
We read your responses with great interest and paid close attention to your suggestions and concerns. One thing is clear: there is no such thing as a typical faculty member. Because the interests and needs of faculty vary widely, contradictory requests and comments were sometimes noted. On the one hand, some faculty members are very tech savvy and asked for more technology. On the other hand, some faculty members have less facility with the numerous online applications, indexes, journals and books available in the Library and requested more help and support. Please be assured that the Library strives to accommodate all its user groups.
The feedback to the 42 questions on the survey was generally positive and encouraging and it is heartening to read about the many ways in which the Library’s presence on campus is appreciated. However, the primary purpose of the survey was to assess library services and collections in regard to faculty needs and we received valuable feedback that we wish to share with the Villanova community. The complete survey results are appended to this report. What follows is a sampling of the results that we would like to highlight.
We asked whether the Library’s resources and services are as important today as they were five years ago and a remarkable 93% of faculty responded that they are more important or as important. Faculty members tell us that they depend on library resources to stay on top of new research in their fields and they recognize the Library’s importance in access to scholarly publications. Only 8% of respondents consider the Library as less important than five years ago.
Books Rule, and the Situation with Journals is Complex
Books still rule in the library, at least as the “importance” ratings of selected library resources and services shows. 68% of respondents consider books essential. E-journals are a close second with 66%, followed by print journals with 46%. However, e-journals come out slightly ahead of books when percentages for essential and very important are combined (86% ranked e-journals as essential or very important and 85% ranked books as essential or very important).
The high ranking for print journals (46% of respondents chose essential and 29% very important) was unexpected given the fact that only a small percentage of the Library’s journals are still received in print and an increasing number of the archival journal holdings are digital as well. In addition, we know from this survey and from other prior surveys that students and faculty prefer the digital copy to the print copy when given a choice. One possible explanation for this unexpected result may be the fear of losing access to journal archives.
The Library obviously needs to do a better job of explaining the issues involved in the archival storage of print and e-journals to its constituents. Falvey participates in a regional project which distributes the burden of archiving print journals over a number of local institutions. The Library is also investigating the possibility of becoming a member in LOCKSS, a decentralized digital preservation infrastructure set up to preserve access to online content in perpetuity.
Adequacy of the Collection
Asked to rate the adequacy of the Library’s collection in regard to their teaching and to their research needs, respondents answered overall favorably, and even more so in regard to their teaching needs. Adequate and very adequate ratings were given by 73% and 87% of respondents when asked how well the Library’s book and journal collection, databases and digital collections supported their teaching needs, with the exception of a low 63% rating earned by the media collection (percentages are re-calculated without N/A answers).
Adequacy ratings for library resources and services in support of faculty research were lower overall. Ratings ranged from 61% to 68 % for the different resource types with the exception of a high 81% rating for databases and indexes. Even these results are generally positive and encouraging, given the budget and space constraints of a library at a university with a primary focus on undergraduate education, but there is definitely room for improvement.
These lower ratings also explain the high level of importance indicated for EZ-Borrow and interlibrary loan, which were ranked as most essential among the Library’s services by 63% of respondents, followed by 41% of faculty, who considered the scanning of print journal articles as essential. A growing number of journal article requests are filled within 24-48 hours with the recent adoption of RapidILL. EZ-Borrow, a service in which local libraries share their collections, is becoming increasingly popular because of its short turnaround time.
Library Academic Liaison Program
Overall, the Library’s liaison teams are successful in their outreach efforts to the various academic departments. An impressive 80% of survey respondents know one or more of the librarians on “their” library liaison team. A closer look at the results shows that part-time faculty members are overrepresented among the 20% of respondents who do not know “their” librarian or liaison team. The liaison teams will explore ways to reach out to part-time faculty in a more effective way. A closer analysis of survey results also reveals that not all departments and programs are equally well served by their library liaison teams. The reasons for this will be explored in a follow-up focus group discussion with faculty.
A respectable 78% of respondents let us know that they are very or somewhat satisfied with the Library’s liaison teams and the services provided by them. Only two respondents (1%) were somewhat dissatisfied.
Library workshops for students were rated as satisfactory by 52% of respondents, while only four respondents (2%) indicated that they were somewhat dissatisfied. However, 39% of respondents answered that they do not use them, perhaps because they are teaching courses without a research component or because they are themselves instructing students in library research methods. A review of the answers to question 24 on the survey shows that 38% of respondents do some type of library research instruction themselves in the classroom.
About two-thirds of respondents were either very or somewhat satisfied with the Library’s online subject guides, while 6% were somewhat or very dissatisfied. The fact that another 6% of respondents are not aware of the Library’s subject guides and that 21% do not use them, points toward a need for more effective marketing of these services. The online course and topic guides were favorably rated by 41% of respondents, a remarkable result for a fairly new service.
Getting the Word Out
Library liaison teams, librarians and the Library’s website are the leading sources for information about new library resources, services and events. Only colleagues came close to earning as high a rank. Two-thirds of respondents are familiar with department/program specific library research web pages.
About 47% of respondents told us that they were actively involved in selecting resources for the Library’s collection and another 40% let us know that they would like to become more involved. Liaison teams and librarians welcome faculty interest in the Library’s collection. Talk to them about your interest in collection development decisions.
Faculty did seem to have a general understanding that a bigger and better collection was beyond the means of an institution of Villanova’s size and stature, but numerous respondents felt that Villanova cuts a poor figure with respect to its peer institutions because of the many challenges posed by the physical library building. However, some faculty members commented that although Falvey’s collections may not come close to those of the big research libraries that many of them regularly visit in pursuit of their own research, Falvey’s staff provides superior service.
Library as Intellectual Center
Faculty members are frequent visitors of Falvey’s website, but use the physical space far less frequently than undergraduate students do. Faculty would like to visit the physical building more often, but find it a very uninviting environment that does little to stimulate their intellectual endeavors. Here are some of their comments about the building:
“the place desperately needs a renovation; it’s grim, dated space, when it should be a centerpiece celebrating our teaching and research mission.”
“update it … make it a center for study and interaction … it’s the central part of campus but there’s very little space to move about in it, socially, academically”
“more research exchanges among faculty and students in the form of talks, programs, symposia, etc.”
“improve the space so that faculty can read, study, work and do research in the library, with the collection at hand”
“it’s a terrible building for a library. It communicates ‘high school library on steroids,’ not ‘university.’”
“I plan to use Haverford’s library as a study space”
“stay there as a library”
Some Unexpected Outcomes
Surprisingly, some respondents asked for services already available at Falvey such as the scanning of journal articles, audio books, tables of contents in the online catalog, dedicated computer terminals to look up books and call numbers, and lists of new book titles. As some of these services and resources have been available for several years now, they obviously need to be marketed more effectively. More than one respondent told us that they were not aware of some of the Library’s services and only learned about it while answering the survey.
“I don’t know what most of the items asked about are … I think faculty are reluctant to ask, because we feel like we should know.”
We were also asked to introduce ourselves to new faculty. For the past four years all new faculty hires have been invited to have breakfast with their liaison librarians at Falvey as part of VITALS’ new faculty orientation program. There were several requests for multi-system all regions dvd players and these should be available in the Library shortly. One respondent suggested that the library offer chat reference, a service that coincidentally was rolled out at the beginning of this fall semester and is steadily growing in popularity. We will continue this conversation with a faculty focus group to delve more deeply into some of the issues raised in the survey.