In 2009 I published Informing Innovation, a research report that tracked the library and technology use, perceptions, and needs of Ohio University students. Over the past year, I have been privileged to consult on a similar project for a different (and vastly larger) student population in California.
I’ve been working with the Council of Chief Librarians of California Community Colleges (CCLCCC) to develop a coordinated online user study strategy that could feasibly scale to all 112 community colleges in California. The trial run of this survey occurred in February of 2011, and involved five colleges throughout the state (East Los Angeles College, Merced College, Mendocino College, Mission College, & Santa Barbara City College). A total of 3,168 students attempted the LTES survey at an 80% completion rate and a 12% rate of return based on total full time enrollment (25,625 at the combined campuses).
The Student Library and Technology Engagement Survey was designed to address the following goals:
• Understand local users. Examine the library, information, communication, and academic technology characteristics of California community college (CCC) students.
• Track technology trends. Chart the use of emerging media platforms and communication tools by CCC students.
• Support learning needs. Determine the library’s role in the personal learning environments of CCC students, and identify how to respond more strategically to academic/information needs.
• Prioritize and refine services. Evaluate and adapt traditional and tech-based library services based on user insight.
• Foster cohesion. Provide a common user research strategy for CCC libraries.
Each school sampled their populations via different methods (all-student email v. social media, etc.) in order to test rates of return and data quality. This differentiated research design limits the generalizability of pilot findings, but sheds significant light on survey promotional strategies and the insights that can be inferred from varying sampling methods.
The final project report summarizes the research strategy and initial findings of the CCC Student Library & Technology Engagement Survey, and includes an open access sharealike questionnaire template for non-CCL member institutions to adapt and use in their own contexts:
Survey results provide insight into the connections between library and technology perceptions, use, and receptivity to emerging library platforms (mobile, social, etc.) at each pilot campus:
• Student populations interacted frequently with their physical and digital campus libraries (though significantly more so with brick-and-mortar facilities), and tended to access information resources for research purposes at varied points during the semester based on assignment-related information need.
• “Library as place” was a central theme among participants, who consistently expressed the desire for longer hours, larger facilities, and more resources.
• Respondents frequently cited the quiet, clean atmosphere of campus library facilities as conducive to academic productivity, often in contrast to their home environments.
• Participants rated their information search abilities in an open web context significantly higher than their library research abilities.
• Students who had participated in library instruction reported more positive library perceptions and higher levels of library use and awareness than those who had not.
• Students accessed course readings using an array of web, commercial, library-provided, and informal methods.
• Open-ended comments conveyed a widespread perception of library value as well as a positive reaction to the survey project itself, which can be interpreted as creating ancillary outreach/awareness effects for participating campuses.
• Participants owned and used a wide variety of technology devices, web tools, and social media sites, but also expressed a lack of awareness and/or interest in some technology platforms relative to others.
• Participants reflected an ongoing trend toward reliance on mobile devices such as smartphones, which they applied to diverse academic and personal uses.
• Students valued their technology skill development at community college.
• Information technology use was perceived as a positive factor in learning, academic productivity, and collaboration.
• Social and multimedia platforms were often used in the context of coursework.
• Many participants reported challenges affording necessary academic technologies.
Library Technology Receptivity
• Participants demonstrated interest in library services delivered via social media platforms. Among the available options, respondents were most receptive to services offered via Facebook and YouTube.
• Respondents indicated high levels of interest in library services delivered via mobile platforms, but expressed greater receptivity to some types of mobile library functionality over others (e.g., hours, overdue notices, and renewal features rated higher than “ask a librarian” options).
This effort arose from an acknowledgement that, at a time of widespread transition and resource scarcity in higher education, robust inquiry is needed at the campus level to understand the diversity of user needs and characteristics. If known, these factors can facilitate a streamlined library and academic technology framework that supports student learning through evidence-based practice.
In coordination with the CCL Executive Board, myself and a working group consisting of pilot participant library directors, including Tim Karas of Mission College (Chair), John Koetzner of Mendocino College, Kenley Neufeld of Santa Barbara City College, Choonhee Rhim of East Los Angeles Community College, and Susan Walsh of Merced College, developed and administered the study between Fall of 2010 and Spring of 2011.
If you have questions about this study or its open access questionnaire template, please visit www.cclccc.org/contact.html or contact me at charbooth at gmail.
copyright & citation information
This report is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Booth, C. (2011). California Community College Student Library & Technology Engagement Survey: 2011 Pilot, Final Report. Sacramento, CA: Council of Chief Librarians of California Community Colleges, available from http://www.cclccc.org/.