Consultants get paid a great deal of money to tell organizations (including libraries) what their customers want and need, but sometimes it’s cheaper and more effective to ask them yourself.
Here at the Business, Engineering, Science, and Technology Library (BEST) at Miami University we did a recent study on how our students were utilizing our facilities.
We planned to create a survey and then do some interviews with students. Students who filled out the survey would get entered in a drawing to win one of two $40 3D Printing Gift Certificates. Since we had the equipment and materials at hand this saved costs for us. We promoted the survey and the giveaway through posters, table cards, digital signage and the library website.
The survey gave us a lot of good basic information about students’ study habits and use of the libraries (everybody loves whiteboards!), but we wanted some in-depth information also. In the survey we asked students if they would volunteer to be interviewed in exchange for a chance to win…you guessed it, another $40 3D printing gift certificate.
We wanted to video record the interviews for future reference. Each of the interviewers were free to come up with their own recording methods. I recorded one student using my Ipad on a stand, and the other I used in or library’s video recording studio. I learned a lesson that day: test your equipment thoroughly! The iPad video was fine, but the studio video cut out about 3/4ths of the way through. Better yet, don’t be like me and think that you can master any technology without help (Me need help? I’m a librarian! Lord of all of information! Of course I can figure it out.) Ask someone who has experience.
To be able to compile our interviews into a useful format we knew that we would have to create transcripts. There are expensive services that will do this for you, but if you have unlimited funds you must not work in a library (and if so why are you reading this?). We did the work ourselves. It was tedious, but one nice by-product is that we were forced to pay careful attention to the students’ words.
In the end we learned even more about our students and their needs (food is always a concern, as is space to spread out, and access to electricity), and gained some valuable experience along the way.
–Matthew M. Benzing, STEM IG Co-Chair, Miami University