Both internal and external constituencies appear to value the services the ISU Library provides. Examples of evidence include usage statistics and the findings from various surveys conducted by the Library in the last ten years.
Usage statistics: In FY05, the e-Library had over 13 million "visits" and the ISU Library's physical facilities had over 1.54 million visitors, for a total of over 14.5 million visits or uses of the library system. When one considers both the physical and online environments, the Library's collections and services are being used at record levels.
Nevertheless, the popularity of electronic resources and the ease of remote, web-based services have led to an appreciable decline in the use of physical library facilities and the circulation of materials. Between FY01 and FY05, visits to the ISU Library's physical facilities declined by 18% (from 1.88 million to 1.54 million). Comparisons with other academic and research libraries in this regard are difficult, as turnstile counts and other measures of physical building use are not routinely reported to professional organizations.
Longitudinal data from LibQUAL+ surveys conducted in 2001, 2003, and 2005 suggest that the percentage of clients who use the library's physical facilities on a daily basis has remained fairly constant over the past five years--hovering near the 8% mark. In contrast, the percentage of clients who use the electronic library (e-Library) on a daily basis continues to grow: 16.2% in 2001, 19.2% in 2003, and 23.4% in 2005. (See questions 1 and 2 in the Comparison of library use at ISU and ARL Libraries, 2001-2005.) This same pattern is reflected in the aggregate ARL library data for these survey years, though the average ARL percentages are somewhat higher than those at ISU, for both physical and electronic library use.
The total number of items circulated by the ISU Library numbered 301,543 in 2005, down 45.8% in the last ten years. In the latest eight-year period for which comparison data is available (1995-2003), total circulation at the ISU Library decreased by 41.3% (from 579,298 to 339,957), while the median total circulation for ARL libraries decreased by 17.5% (from 578,552 to 477,317). One major factor in this decline is the steady decrease in the number of "in-house" loans, i.e., short-term loans of unbound periodicals, and of books and journals placed on course reserve. Between 1995 and 2005, the number of short-term, in-house loans (which figures in the total circulation count reported to ARL) dropped from 282,482 to 47,581. This reflects the fact that the vast majority (more than 80%) of course reserve material is now available online, and likewise that a growing number of print periodicals have been replaced by their electronic counterparts.
In part to address the issue of declining attendance and building use, the Library's current strategic plan (2005-2010) includes a goal to expand and promote student-centered learning environments within the Parks Library building. Studies and planning to begin early in 2006 will look at IT and infrastructure issues (e.g., convenient access to data networks and electrical outlets); spaces, furniture, and equipment to support both small and large group learning; and spaces for social activity (such as a proposed library coffee shop).
The number of user consultations of a "reference" (as opposed to directional) nature has also declined steadily over the past ten years at Iowa State, dropping 57% (from 73,860 to 31,665) between 1996 and 2005. In the latest eight-year period for which comparison data is available (1995-2003), total reference queries at the ISU Library decreased by 46.4% (from 77,501 to 41,577), while the median total reference queries for ARL libraries decreased by 38.5% (from 156,419 to 96,228). The rapidly changing nature of reference service in academic libraries is a topic of considerable interest in the professional literature and at association meetings. In 2006/2007, the ISU Library will conduct a major review of its reference services, to further explore the meaning of these statistics and to plan the future of reference services at Iowa State.
Use of the ISU Library by non-primary clientele is difficult to track, other than in terms of Visitor Cards issued. The Library's online patron database currently contains records for some 700 individuals classified as "associates" (i.e., visiting faculty or departmental collaborators, including the employees of federal laboratories), and some 1,800 individuals classified as "extramural borrowers" (i.e., independent researchers in Ames and surrounding areas).
Survey findings: Longitudinal data from LibQUAL+ surveys conducted in 2001, 2003, and 2005 suggest that the library's primary clientele (current students, faculty, and staff) have high levels of satisfaction with library services, in both absolute and relative terms. The LibQUAL+ survey asks respondents to rate, on a scale of 1 to 9, their satisfaction with the "affect" of library service (i.e., how they are treated by staff); library support for their teaching, learning, and research activities; and overall satisfaction. In all three categories and across all three years, mean ratings at Iowa State fall in the 6.9 to 7.5 range, and are slightly (but consistently) higher than those of all participating ARL libraries each year. (See Comparison of library satisfaction at ISU and ARL Libraries, 2001-2005.) In the first three iterations of this standardized national survey, the library was careful to select a random sample of current ISU students, faculty, and staff only, to focus attention on our primary clientele. In the future, we will explore the feasibility of including "associate" and "extramural" clients in this survey, to begin to better understand their needs and perceptions, and to expand the rich body of qualitative data (i.e., free-text comments) that is elicited along with the survey's quantitative ratings. (More evaluative information from the biennial LibQUAL+ surveys can be found in the Library Service Quality Assessment section of the self-study.)
Addressing a narrower audience, the university also conducted Undergraduate Student Opinion Surveys in the spring of 1995 and again in the spring of 1998, though these have not been repeated since. In both iterations of this survey, respondents rated their satisfaction with ISU programs and services, including the University Library. In 1998, 99% of the students responding reported using the library's facilities and services, and 86% reported that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with them. Mean ratings on the 5-point scale were 4.14 in 1998 (compared with a national sample rating of 3.97), and 4.15 in 1995. From the complete list of university programs and services to be rated, only the university's recreational and intramural programs received higher satisfaction ratings than the library. (See Satisfaction with ISU Programs and Services, from the December 18, 1998 ISU Student Opinion Survey Results.)
Findings from the Library's Spring 2000 User Satisfaction Survey and the 2003 Wisconsin/Ohio Reference Evaluation Program also suggest high levels of satisfaction with ISU Library facilities, programs, and services. More detailed information regarding these and other assessment activities can be found in the Assessment & Continuous Improvement section of the self-study.
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