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Library User Survey 2000

As part of the Library's commitment to providing UCL with the best possible service, a major survey of undergraduate and taught postgraduate users was carried out in March 2000. The results show the Library continues to be a core resource which is heavily used by most students. Although there are major concerns about photocopying facilities and the availability of textbooks and PCs, there is also satisfaction with much of what the Library is doing.
Graph of Priorites for improving Library Services - Click on Image for larger version

The survey was designed and analysed using a system called Libra which is widely used in university libraries. It gathered data on how students were using the Library, on levels of satisfaction with collections, services and the environment and on priorities for improvement. Only undergraduates and taught postgraduates were surveyed as both groups had been under-represented in the previous 1997 user survey. Questionnaires were sent out to a random sample of registered users in these groups and a total of 282 completed forms covering the full spectrum of faculties and departments were returned.

Over 90% of those responding to the survey visited one of the library sites at least once a week and over 40% came in daily. 90% of users borrowed or returned books and over 70% used the photocopiers. 62% used the library as a place to study while 75% looked for material on a reading list. Computer use was also high with 45% using networked PCs in the library for word-processing or email and 31% using them to access databases and electronic journals.

It is this high level of demand, combined with the large number of students in UCL, that leads to the dissatisfaction with access to materials and equipment that the survey discovered. 42% of users were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the availability of recommended reading and a similar percentage with the number of multiple copies of core texts. High levels of dissatisfaction were also expressed with the price of photocopying and the number of photocopiers, the availability of PCs and catalogue terminals.

Unsurprisingly, when asked to choose between a variety of suggestions for improving the library, it was these issues which came out on top. The diagram shows user priorities. The length of the bar indicates the strength of preference or dislike for an idea, those items projecting to the right are preferred and those to the left disliked. All the ideas for improving the library came from a focus group of students held earlier in the year. The highest-rated suggestion by all groups was to "buy more copies of set texts and commentaries". This was followed by "make photocopying cheaper", then "have more PCs in the library", "spend a bigger proportion of the College's budget on the library", "subscribe to more journal titles" and "open the library on Sundays more often".

On a more positive note there were some areas of the Library that were highly rated. In particular, nearly 70% of users were satisfied with the and a similar number happy with opening hours during term.

All this information plays a vital part in the planning process, helping to identify areas for attention and improvement. An action plan to deal with each of the issues identified by the survey has already been drawn up. It involves a variety of measures including appointing an outside contractor to provide photocopying services; providing more space for PCs and catalogue terminals in planned refurbishments of the Main and Science libraries, and even closer co-operation between subject librarians and academic staff to ensure core materials are identified as early as possible and additional copies purchased.

The Library is very grateful to everyone who took part in the 2000 survey and hopes that many more will participate in the next survey planned for 2002.

Content by Martin Reid

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