Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maximising use of library resources

Sue White and Graham Stone, from the University of Huddersfield, were presenting a two phase project (although they emphasised that it's still a work in progress)
  • Phase 1: Looking at low/no use users
  • Phase 2: Linking use to student attainment, looking for evidence of impact and value, connected to the University Teaching and Learning Strategy

They identified three main indicators of use:
  • Access to e-resources, via log-ins to MetaLib (as they can see who users are, which isn't trackable in other usage statistics)
  • Book loans, through Horizon LMS circulation statistics
  • Access to library, through gate entry statistics at the main campus library which identifies students via their ID cards
The results were sobering: figures for zero use are high, even in Schools perceived as 'good' library users.

They then matched usage data with the student record system (SITS) in order to get complete data for two cohorts of students on 3 year courses. More statistical analysis of data is needed but it suggests a clear correlation between MetaLib logins and books borrowed, and degree classification, across all Schools. There was no correlation with gate entry figures, however, which may be been due to complicating factors like an extensive refurbishment programme and the location of other student services within library building.

The project team have done more detailed analysis of 15 'low use' courses, focused on 3 year undergraduate courses delivered on main campus, and excluding courses with less than 35 students (to avoid the possibility of identifying individuals).

The results still suggest a consistent link between e-resource use, book borrowing and student attainment, across all disciplines. There are outliers, like students who have obtained firsts but didn't appear to be library users, and some courses don't follow the pattern eg where degree classification is influenced by book borrowing but not e-resource use. This raises some interesting questions: are e-resources not relevant to the course? is the tutor not advising them to use e-resources? have they bought the right e-resources? do users know about them? are students using Google to go straight to the e-resources, bypassing MetaLib?

This kind of project does raise some issues so Huddersfield's advice was:
  • Politically sensitive topic to investigate, beware offending tutors
  • Important to have support from senior management of university
  • Identify academic 'champions'
  • Need to acknowledge subject differences: there may be pedagogic reasons why some courses do not use resources the way a library might like
  • Not cause and effect relationship: not a case of 'borrow more books and get a better degree'
  • Be honest about findings eg university spent a lot of money on refurbishing the library but gate counts don't correlate with attainment
Hudderfield's academic librarians now have a mandate to go out to the Schools, to explore reasons for non/low usage on specific courses and develop an action plan. The action plans will cover:
  • course profiling
  • raising tutor/student awareness with targeted promotion
  • reviewing the induction process
  • embedded information skills training at point of need
  • targeting resource allocation (both information resources and staffing)
They will produce an Annual Resource Statement each year with Schools, laying out what % budget will be spent on books, journals etc, a list of resources to be cancelled/renewed/started each year. Progress will then be reviewed annually.

More information is available via the University's repository

[This session was also a useful complement to the discussion about metrics and return on investment raised by Carol Tenopir in the second plenary session on "Economics of Scholarly Information", which focused more on the library's impact on research and in particular grant income]

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