Monday, December 05, 2011

We are here! We are here! We are HERE!!

For several years HIU has participated in an annual Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI) which shares comparative data with other Christian colleges and universities. The survey is administered to all classes meeting on campus one day in late October. It is not a course evaluation that professors give at the end of class to evaluate their effectiveness. It is meant to measure student satisfaction with the University in general. The questions that are of particular interest to the library are:
  1. The library staff is friendly and approachable.
  2. Library resources and services are adequate for my needs.
Students rate each item twice. Once to indicate its importance and second to rate the quality or delivery. The gap between these scores tells us how satisfied students are.

After reviewing this year's SSI scores and comparing them with the recent past, I was struck by a couple of things. First, the importance of library staff, resources, and services increased steadily over the past four years. Why would students perceive the library to be more important to them every year? It wasn't very long ago that it was a popular notion that Google would make the library obsolete. What has changed?

The second thing that I found interesting was the fact that the gap between expectation and satisfaction increased three years in a row until this year. In other words, students were more and more disappointed until recently. Students have been raising the bar and the library has just started to meet their expectations a little better.

Of course, these questions are quite broad. Are students that are less satisfied thinking of friendliness and approachability in terms of availability? Or do they actually think our staff is unfriendly or intimidating?

Since resources and services are lumped into one question, are the scores reflective of both? Or is it one or the other? Which library resources and/or services are not adequate? Are students expectations changing? Are the library's resources losing value? Or have we simply failed to make students aware of what is available to them?

We take these scores very seriously, but we need to recognize that they don't give the whole story. And we won't get the whole story without surveying students to death (which wouldn't be very friendly.) So we have to use other means to evaluate these things.

Our goal is not to be simply adequate or even popular, but to actually be friendly, approachable, and relevant. But I sometimes feel like the Library is in the microscopic community with the Whos in Horton Hears A Who by Dr. Seuss. Perhaps we just need to yell a little louder to get the word out about our resources.

Image from Alexander Ross Animation & Fine Art Gallery (

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