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Librarian as Quality Assurance Agent

April 4, 2007, 4:08 pm

We have a presentation rehearsal studio that gets a lot of use. In the Fall 2006 semester it was booked for 853 hours and we could have doubled that if we had more rooms to offer. The rehearsal studio is designed for groups to practice presentations using the same technology (computer, software, projectors) that are available in the classrooms. Students can also video capture themselves for later review.

Many libraries offer something similar, but what I noticed is that about 25% of all sessions were for Biology or BioMed courses and that women typically made the room reservations, with around 70% for the month of March. We’ve kicked around some theories and the suspicion is that females might be more of the social catalysts that pull the group together. Our total population is only 30% female so this is interesting, but I believe that females tend to use libraries more anyway. (we’ll save that for another day)

I choose 10 random people who had booked the room in March and after a friendly intro, asked them three questions: (paraphrasing)
1. How’d they hear about the room?
2. If we were to build a second room, what would they like to see different?
3. Is there anything specifically they’d like to see different with the rest of the Library?

Seven of them responded and they were all very polite and enthusiastic to share their opinions.

Most had heard about the room from friends or professors, with one saying he saw an ad on our web site. They all wanted more rooms for rehearsal and group study. They also wanted the scheduling of the room to be easier and the ability to checkout supplies, such as laser pointers and USB remotes for class.

The real richness though was in the final question. Everything from not feeling safe on the upper (empty) floors late at night, wanting healthier food in the cafe, enforcement of no talking zones, more power outlets, quick print computers, and fax/photocopying linked to their weekly print quota (they get 50 free pages each week but have to pay for copier and fax services).

We’ve heard all this stuff before through LibQUAL, focus groups, feedback forms, and just people you talk to. However I really like this direct email method. I responded to each of them addressing their ideas. Next time I am going to ask how their overall Library Experience has been semester and if there was anything notably good or bad. And maybe a second group aiming at their entire academic experience too. This method also provides names of potential students to include in future focus groups or library projects. I was aiming to play the role of quality assurance agent, making sure everything was ok and looking for how we might improve and maintain our success. They seemed to appreciate it because it was directly connected to them and their actual use, rather than just another random survey. It’s like we care or something…

As for advertising, we really don’t need to. Unfortunately we have to turn people way. But we could pull together an inventory of courses with presentation assignments (we can grab this from their sign-up info) and make sure those professors are aware of the rehearsal studio and encourage them to share with their students. We could even give the professors flyers to distribute to the class and sneak in some other library info too.

Jill is probably the only one who will appreciate this, but it could be fun to craft a message that shows a professor handing out an assignment and students forming groups and a female using her laptop to book the room. Building on the theme of plan ahead, reserve your spot now. Of course the female should be someone known around campus, like this. Or maybe feature a group that does a horrible job with their presentation and the message is something like, don’t let this be you.

Ah, if only libraries valued advertising.

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