Friday, December 04, 2009

Article Note: On Faculty Library Use and Tenure Impact

Citation for the article:

Ovadia, Steven. "How Does Tenure Status Impact Library Usage: A Study of LaGuardia Community College." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 35.4 (July 2009): 332-340.

Read via ScienceDirect.

The bottom line is that this article is a look a library usage patterns for faculty, in this case the faculty of a community college-- LaGuardia CC, which is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. In addition to my usual interest in reading the LIS literature, I wanted to look at this because we are looking at assessment yet again in my workplace. I asked myself if we could or should do a similar survey here for the faculty. After all, we seem to be consistently surveying students (and not just us. The campus is notorious for survey overkill, but that would be another post). So, I wondered if for a change we could investigate the faculty and learn a thing or two. The electronic version of the article has the survey instrument, but not if you get it in print.

Ovadia begins with the customary literature review after the introduction where we get a brief survey of other faculty library usage studies. When compared to student library usage, there are not that many studies done about the faculty and their library usage patterns. An issue that comes out in surveys like this, and whic I would have to consider as well if we were to do a similar survey, is the issue of privacy and how much faculty may want or feel comfortable revealing about things such as publication history or their educational backgrounds. It seems that the more anonymous faculty feel they can be, the more candid they are. And for our purposes that would probably work at an initial stage.

Ovadia used a SurveyMonkey web-based survey, but he also sent it via campus e-mail. Apparently, response might improve if sent to the departments and asking department chairs to encourage faculty to complete it. This may be another thing for us to consider. I hate to say this, but faculty in general tend to be notorious for not replying to e-mail (not just here, but at least in the campuses I have worked). Oviada does report that low response rate was a problem.

In the end, what Ovadia found was that faculty seem to use library resources based on comfort levels. For instance, those who are tenured represent a higher percentage using the library for their personal research (339). This would be because they are familiar with the library given they have been working for the campus for a longer term than those who are not tenured yet. However, the survey also revealed that another possible reason for non-usage may be lack of materials in the library that the faculty need. This could be something we may find out ourselves if we were to conduct a similar survey. Anecdotal evidence indicates some faculty here have expressed that concern. Given budgetary constraints here, I am not sure how far we could go in addressing some of the issue, and for print, you have to add space restraints. Yet, I would like to conduct the study anyways as way not only to assess our services but our collections.

One of the solutions that can be implemented right away identified by Ovadia is implementing more outreach. Ovadia writes that "more faculty outreach, especially to new faculty, could make newer faculty more more comfortable using the LaGuardia library as well as more familiar with the resources available" (339). Here, we do an open house for new faculty at the beginning of the Fall semester where they can meet their subject liaisons and learn about resources available to them in their areas. Getting a good turnout is a bit of an issue, but it is still a worthy idea. I am exploring additional ways of outreach as well.

Ovadia also admits that some of his results may be influenced by the fact that other larger academic libraries are within easy reach of the faculty. That would not be an issue here since there are no large libraries nearby (unless you want to take the two hour drive to DFW, or the much longer one to Austin for instance). So, we would look more at ILL services as part of the survey. Overall, the article is worth a look as a model on how to survey your faculty to see if your library meets their needs and what to look for.

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