Why Survey Students:
Maybe you administer a student survey every year, or maybe you have never surveyed your students. With all of the evaluation systems required by programs like “Race To the Top,” etc. and with every state setting different guidelines for librarian evaluation, this might be the last thing you want to add to the mix. However, finding out how students perceive the library can be invaluable and can improve your student engagement overall.
When, Where & How to Administer the Survey:
Timing is often the most critical question. If you have a very large school you will need the help of your teachers or administration to determine the best time of year, the best day of the week, the best time of day to survey. Dodging testing has become the biggest obstacle these days. In the past, I have collaborated with the English teachers to give the library survey. I chose this discipline because every student had English each day. I have also collaborated with the advisory program to deliver the survey. The last two surveys we conducted were sent directly to students via email. These were both electronic surveys. The first with Survey Monkey and the most recent with Google Forms. Google Forms is one of my favorite free tools offered by Google. The summary of the survey responses and the spreadsheet of the full survey results that Google returns is incredibly useful.
What Types of Survey Questions:
Well first of all – What do you want to know? Each library is unique and requires different questions. The mistake most people make is using a universally formatted survey. This might be appropriate for a few questions but customizing the survey for your own situation helps.
Here is one question I asked our students:
The Ideal Library Atmosphere should be [all of these features are important]
Rank in order of importance from Least Important to Most Important
- Primarily a Research and Technology Focused environment
- Quiet place to read, study, or do homework
- A place to Hangout with friends
- A place for special events
To format this question in the Google Forms application try the “multiple choice grid” question format.
The library atmosphere is very important for our library since we are a boarding school and we operate until 10 pm on weeknights. You might ask questions in a different way depending on your set-up. When you take the time to customize a survey, students are more willing to give feedback. We usually get a couple of student “testers” to make certain the survey isn’t too long, works on cell phones, and is easy to navigate. As a college preparatory school, we look at colleges and universities for information and ideas – like this Survey Snapshot from MIT.
If you are still stuck on what to ask, the National Library of New Zealand has a number of resources for creating Library Surveys.
Google Forms example from our Library – Student Survey
Books about collecting and explaining data:
- How to Conduct Surveys: A Step-by-Step Guide by Arlene G. Fink
- Research Methodology: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners by Ranjit Kumar
- Data Smart: Using Data Science to Transform Information into Insight by John W. Foreman
- Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic
Author: Hannah Byrd Little
Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.