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How do you get feedback from library users? (Or, Beating Survey Fatigue…)

Posted by Editor on August 12, 2011

by Ned Potter

John Kennerly just drew my attention on twitter, to an article about how students are getting survey fatigue. (The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education, you can read it here.)

I’m really interested in how to get feedback – not just from students in academic libraries, but from all patrons for all types of libraries. My interest has been piqued recently because of:

  • Terry Kendrick pointing out in a marketing workshop that “…it’s no good asking people what their needs are; they’ll just come up with some guff to help you with your survey!”
    Think about when you were last asked about your needs. What was your main driver in answering – expressing those needs, or just making the question go away? Even those with the best of intentions may come with answers just to try and help the surveyor, rather than truly delving into themselves to try and think about what they need. Plus, needs are based partly on what you know is possible – people might not mention stuff because they don’t even know it’s something the library has any ability to fulfil.
  • Stephen Abram mentioning at SLA2011 how much better the focus groups he ran went when he gave everyone a $5 Starbucks card and told them to spend it and bring a coffee and muffin to the meeting
    I can imagine a million and one purse-string holders saying “We can’t afford to spend $50 on a focus group!” But actually that’s a pretty good use of $50…
  • The quote from Henry Ford that resurfaces fairly often
    On the Model T Ford: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d’ve said a faster horse…”
  • A recent revelation at work that a survey we hadn’t had time to publicise got more respondents than the previous year when we’d gone all out
    Could be a coincidence, of course. But maybe there’s something in there about the psychology of trying to elicit feedback?

These are all interesting points, I think. So what are you doing to ascertain what your patrons are thinking? Is there something more reliable than surveys? And if you’re asking them via social media, how did you find out what social media platforms they used in the first place…?

All comments gratefully received!  Read this great article, and more, here

– thewikiman

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