November 24, 2017

Student Monitor: Campus Libraries Hold their Value for Students

studentmonitorLogoStudent Monitor (SM), a market research firm specializing in data generated by college students, recently released some encouraging facts from its semiannual Lifestyle and Media Study, which is designed to investigate students’ attitudes about school and non-academic interests: what they read, watch, and listen to, and how those choices influence their consumer behavior, perceptions, and experiences.

Among the attitudes tracked is how they feel about their academic libraries, which was one of five trends briefly referenced in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog post, “Five Things We Know About College Students in 2014.” Current data, said SM managing partner Eric Weil, reflected the same patterns as surveys in the past few years. Nearly two thirds of the students questioned expressed satisfaction with their campus libraries—35 percent very satisfied and 29 percent somewhat satisfied. Women had a higher level of satisfaction than men, at 68 percent versus 60. As library users became more sophisticated with each undergraduate year, that perception increased incrementally as well, with seniors reporting the highest levels of happiness with their college libraries. Unsurprisingly, students who lived on campus expressed greater satisfaction than did those living off-campus.

To gather data, researchers talked to 1,200 students on 100 campuses nationwide and conducted detailed interviews face-to-face—a method that returns far more accurate results than online surveys, according to Weil.

Because the surveys are conducted twice a year, during spring and fall semesters, SM is able to track whether answers stay the same or change, and what triggers those changes. Libraries, as it turns out, are one of the more consistent variables. “Students have always rated their campus library at the top in terms of their levels of satisfaction or getting value,” Weil told LJ. Student housing, the cost of textbooks, and campus dining services, on the other hand, “have traditionally ranked at the very bottom.”

The library question, Weil explained, was first framed in the student interviews within the broader context of educational worth, asking “Are you getting fair value for the cost of your education?” (In the most recent survey, nearly a third of the students felt they were not.) This was followed with the request that students rate, on a scale from one to five, elements of their college experience: library, computer lab, recreational athletic facilities, campus bookstore, dining services, campus computer network, student union, financial aid office, on- and off-campus housing, career center, and health services.

Even given these fluctuations, however, college students have remained consistently loyal to their campus libraries.

“You’re talking about a group that’s typically rather cynical,” Weil noted. “So those are pretty good numbers.”

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

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