Friday, November 8, 2013

We Built It, Why Didn’t They Come? An Analysis of Library Awareness and Usage In the Kansas


The Association of College and Research Libraries’ Standards for Distance Learning Library Services (2008) specifies that libraries should “regularly [survey] distance learning library users to monitor and assess both the appropriateness of their use of services and resources and the degree to which needs are being met and skills acquired.” Although the standards do not define the term “regularly,” their stated goal of ensuring that academic libraries meet the research and information needs of distance learners leaves little doubt that it is appropriate to conduct a survey whenever librarians charged with meeting the needs of distance learners are ignorant of those needs, as occurred at Kansas State University Libraries (KSUL) following a structural reorganization which took place in 2010.

In May 2011, KSUL’s Instructional Design Librarian established a Distance Learning Team (hereafter referred to as we) comprised of representatives from KSUL’s two largest public services departments: Faculty and Graduate Services (FGS) and Undergraduate and Community Services (UCS). Although we were anxious to begin improving services and marketing efforts, we decided to minimize the likelihood of solving non-existent problems by heeding the Standards’ call for a user survey. This paper describes the survey’s goals and items, presents key results (including the development of the survey instrument as an educational tool), outlines some of the changes we subsequently initiated to bolster services and marketing, and discusses our plans for future service improvements and assessments


Our surveys and those conducted eight years earlier by Stockham and Turtle both demonstrate quite clearly that services and resources do not promote themselves. They also reveal that many distance learners, faculty, and instructors either do not endeavor to find out what libraries can do for them, or are unsuccessful in the attempt. If you build it, there is no guarantee that they will come, even if it is incredible. While promotion and marketing might entice more of them to come, the much better strategy is to rethink the dynamics of the situation. Education involves much more than communicating facts, teaching skills, and introducing theoretical frameworks. It also requires challenges that create new needs and new motivations to explore, and the creation of environments to meet those needs. The environments should have entrances throughout the landscape, on libraries’ pages, in online classes, in syllabi, and interwoven into the structure of assignments.They will come if they know it exists and expect it will help.

Cite: Pitts, J., Bonella, L., & Coleman, J. (2012). We built it, why didn't they come? An analysis of library awareness and usage in the Kansas State University distance learning community. In F. Baudino & C. Johnson (Eds.), Brick and Click Libraries: An Academic Library Symposium, Northwest Missouri State University, Friday, October 26,  2012 (pp. 141-151). Maryville, MO: Northwest Missouri State University.

Thanks to Joelle Pitts !!!

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