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RTI Research Spotlight: Multiyear Assessment Reveals Utilization Patterns and Preferences of Residents/Fellows with Some Surprising Results

Mary Pat Harnegie is a fellow of the 2019 MLA Research Training Institute (RTI), and this project was the focus of her research. The RTI project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (RE-95-17-0025-17).

Our libraries live in metrics-driven academic and hospital environments. One helpful metric is knowing how your library services are used and whether the users are satisfied with the services. We designed a survey to measure what and how library services were being used. Our library collected three years’ worth of survey data, which needed analysis to be of value. RTI provided the skills training so I could:

1. Classify and quantify our collected data
2. Identify our library’s service strengths and weaknesses
3. Write up my findings on our patrons’ usage and satisfaction with library services

Our hospital system trains over 1,200 residents/fellows per year. Residents and fellows are a key stakeholder group and use all of our services. Between 2017 and 2019, exiting residents and fellows were surveyed about their usage and satisfaction with the library’s key services. COVID-19 protocols prevented the survey from occurring in 2020–21. Key services included interlibrary loan services/document delivery, literature search requests, library space for studying, on- and off-campus access to electronic resources, and training opportunities in research and citation management databases. With 62% of eligible participants responding to the survey, the results provided reliable statistical evidence for evaluating library services and the extent of usage.

Analysis of the data collected in the survey showed that our marketing/outreach efforts were working—98% of residents and fellows know the library exists and 50% of them use our services. The survey results tell that the most popular services (in order of most to least) were interlibrary loan services, studying in the library, asking for staff assistance, and using librarian-assisted literature searches. The on- and off-campus electronic resources access garnered the highest level of satisfaction along with library availability as a physical space. Twenty-five percent of people who did not have library accounts still used library services like studying in the library and using a librarian-assisted literature search. These users preferred to do their research and studying in the library. A majority of the users had received a library orientation and various database training, and they identified areas for further training.

The survey results portrayed a picture of strengths and weaknesses. In a time of libraries losing space, we have validated that for our residents/fellows the library as a physical space is an important asset. This supports the argument to maintain a physical library. The dollars spent for electronic access are being used for research and patient care with high levels of satisfaction. Other results will help with future strategic, educational, and marketing planning. We plan to continue this survey process as an annual continuous improvement process. We have metrics that show what resources are used, who is using them, and that they are being used. We can justify dollars spent by pointing to the details provided by this survey’s data.


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