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

12 Aug


StockXChange pic of a survey entry

Are you overwhelmed with ennui when asked to fill in yet another feedback survey?

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! :)

- thewikiman

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The biggest and most effective change I’ve ever made to the way I organise my work-load…

08 Aug

… has been to create a separate and specific To-Do list, entitled “Things Other People Are Waiting On Me To Do“. It seems a really small thing but trust me on this, you have to try it!

a child's to do list

CC image from Flickr (by Carissa GoodNCrazy), click to view original

I really can’t emphasise enough how useful this has been. I can’t even fully explain why – I think it’s something to do with how it really focuses the mind. I always feel more comfortable working on stuff that is more general, or is a new idea / experiment, or that is specifically for me, when I know that other people aren’t waiting on me for stuff. Also, it allows you to prioritise effectively in those moments when you know you have only 20 minutes before a meeting: yes you could check your emails, or you could work on that presentation you have to give next week – but if you look down your Things Other People Are Waiting On Me To Do list and see a nice 20-minute sized task to complete, it feels like a really productive use of your time, which frees you up to concentrate fully on your own stuff later.

I personally divide my list into People in Music and People in TFTV (the two departments I look after as an Academic Liaison Librarian), People in the Library (meaning the rest of the staff here in the Information Directorate) and Information Professional People (which is a catch-all term I use for stuff I do professionally like talks and presentations, the book etc). Obviously to some extent, everything we do at work is for other people – but having a separate to do list with, say, ‘provide list of titles for X’, ‘order books for Y’ and ‘get back to Z about whatever’ and those kind of specifics is a really effective way of helping organise my work-load. This doesn’t replace my general to-do list, it runs alongside it.

I add things to it as soon as they come in – it’s a way of making sure I stay aware of the need to email someone back about something, rather than it staying in my mind for a bit and then slipping off my radar, for example. I have my list in Evernote, but it would work in whatever format you like your to-do lists in.

Try it! Seriously, give it a go. I’ve converted a couple of colleagues here, and although I think they thought I was just rambling when I first told them about it, they’ve since told me how effective it’s been for them too…

- thewikiman

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#libday7: a Multimedia Journal

29 Jul

It’s Library Day in the Life time again!

Here is a week in my life as an Academic Liaison Librarian – works best in full screen mode:


(Here’s a link in case you’re viewing this in Google Reader and the embedded content doesn’t display.)

I don’t normally write much for this (last time round I did a video) because I think people are often over-saturated with LibDay posts – but I’m making an exception this time because my new job is so much more interesting than previous roles! Also, subject librarian is one of those roles which people find very difficult to really get a handle on – no two days are the same, so finding out what subject librarians actually DO is tricky. So the journal above is a fuller account.

Let me know if you have any questions about the job, particularly if it’s an area you’re wondering about going into yourself…

- thewikiman

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The ultimate guide to Prezi

28 Jul

Update: the Prezi itself, below, was updated in May 2013 with some more tips, examples, FAQs, and also to cover the new Prezi interface.

I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, so here we go: a complete guide to the presentation software Prezi, from what it is and why to use it right up to advanced techniques for making your presentation absolutely killer.

Works best on full-screen, as ever.

I created this for a workshop next week in the library, so I was going to launch it then – but Prezi themselves have started promoting it via their Facebook presence and on their Explore page. (You should really check out the Explore page, some of the Prezis on there are amazing!) So seeing as it’s gone global already, I’ve brought things forward.

I created a hand-out for the workshop, which features screen-grabs of the nuts-and-bolts instructions on how to use Prezi, plus this basic overview for those completely new to it:

The basics

The basic principle of Prezi is to put objects on the canvas and link them together with a ‘path’. Your presentation will then consist of Prezi moving from object to object, zooming in on them in the order you’ve chosen.

Objects can be text boxes, images, youtube videos or graphics. You can write and structure your presentation exactly as you would a PowerPoint, or you can do something completely different.

Just click on the canvas anywhere to start adding stuff.

A typical process of creating a Prezi might consist of these stages:

  1. Plan the structure and outline of the presentation
  2. Add the text, plus any images / videos etc
  3. Move them around and arrange them in a coherent order on the canvas
  4. Plot the path between them in the order you want to use
  5. Click ‘Show’ and watch the presentation back, then refine it if you need to

If you found this guide useful, I’ve written a bunch of others to various things like twitter, blogging platforms, netvibes and so on – they can all be accessed here.

Happy presenting!

- thewikiman

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