Our most important responsibility is to provide for the information needs of the Vanderbilt community. We can only accomplish this by listening to the faculty and students who are here now and by "listening" to those who are likely to come in the future.
In recent years, the library has made renewed efforts to assess our impact on the University community. These assessment efforts have generated useful information on which we can base service improvement and future programs and services. Meeting as a group on a regular basis, the Library Management Council, consisting of each of the library directors and selected others, explores possibilities for service quality improvement. This group has developed new services for faculty such as materials available for pick-up and checkout at the faculty member's preferred location. We have undertaken cost studies and initiated feedback mechanisms such as a Web-based suggestion box. We have solicited opinions on our new Web-based services as they develop, and we have studied the usability of these systems through observation and discussion, making use of focus groups.
Other groups in the library help us "listen" to our users. We have created advisory committees that bring together staff members from each of the individual libraries to consider how we can better serve our clientele and perform our functions. The Circulation Advisory Group, the Information Services Advisory Group, the Cataloging and Authorities Advisory Group, and the Staff Development Committee study issues, gather information, consider improvements, and pass along recommendations to the Library Management Council. Such broad-based participation allows us to incorporate useful information from the front lines of actual library use.
No single library's collection can provide for all of the information needs of its user community. The library is a partner within the educational mission of the University and must look to cooperation with many other offices that serve students and faculty in a variety of related ways. Likewise, libraries have a strong tradition of interlibrary cooperation. We have long made heavy use of interlibrary borrowing, and recently we've been working to expand all of these programs.
It is from the University Librarian's Office that we explore cooperation beyond our library: in the University community or with other libraries across the country. Within the last five years, the Vanderbilt Library has been instrumental in the development of local and regional consortia. Athena is a shared catalog and interlibrary courier service for delivery of library materials among many of the libraries in the Nashville area. A similar effort has developed with other research libraries in the southeastern U.S.: its name is Kudzu. Both catalogs are housed and operated by Vanderbilt Library's technology support services, and the courier service contract is negotiated and administered by our administrative office on behalf of all the participating libraries. The library is also working toward a close relationship with Fisk University to allow seamless access for our students to each other's collections.
So, too, are we seeking partnerships with other parts of the University-participating in technology discussions and planning, working with departments to develop and make accessible digital collections, and working with faculty members to learn more about their and their students' teaching and research needs.
Offsite Use of the Library's Resources
Numbers for offsite use of the library's resources increased dramatically in the last four years with the strongest offsite use coming from faculty members and graduate students. A total of 68 percent of all those surveyed use library resources remotely at least once per week (compared to 39 percent in 1998). Undergraduates report 52 percent use on-site and 51 percent use remote access. Graduate students are the heaviest users of the libraries on-site: 70 percent daily or weekly, and faculty members show the highest percentage (80 percent) of electronic usage daily or weekly. Comments included
But we could do more:
Responses to staff service are strong and positive. On a scale of 1 to 9, 81 percent were very satisfied with the way they were treated in the libraries; 76 percent judged the overall quality of service to be very good. The library's support for learning, research and/or teaching needs were judged to be very satisfactory by 68 percent of respondents. Our results here were better than those for most of the other participating libraries. Comments included:
The Library Facility and Collections
Ratings were somewhat lower for the library's collections and physical environment. Responses ranged from 61 percent who believed that the print collection exceeded their minimum expectations to only 39 percent who thought the library's journal runs were sufficiently complete. It should be noted that ARL has discovered that this particular negative response seems to be universal among the participating 167 libraries, existing regardless of the institution and its collection size. Reaction to the library building was also less positive with only 51 percent of the respondents believing that the library offered a comfortable and inviting location at some minimum level of expectation. Some of the responses were
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