Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Do Customers Expect Libraries to Innovate?

The University of Minnesota Libraries release their final report on a project supported by the Mellon Foundation entitled A Multi-Dimensional Framework for Academic Support, which has been receiving some attention.

The goal of the project was to develop a model for bringing greater coherence to distributed resources through physical and virtual means, and also a research support environment that could be modeled, prototyped, and evaluated. The study also assisted the academic leadership in understanding how libraries can promote the "physically boundless nature of inquiry and information use."

From over 50 individual interviews with faculty from 16 College of Liberal Arts departments and roundtable discussions with graduate students they constructed a general picture of scholarly practices and habits. I didn't find any real surprises in the report. My short summary: Graduate students need a stable place to study. Faculty researchers find interdisciplinary and collaborative research difficult. Everyone wants more electronic access to the libraries resources but values the physical collection.

There was, however, one question directly relevant to the discussion of the Librarian's Dilemma:
  • Q18.How important are the University Libraries for the following aspects of your research process: Resource for finding and retrieving; place for research or study; collector and purchaser; repository/preservation; developer of technology?

    39.3% thought the library’s role as a developer of technology was quite important.

While this is a response to one part of a single question, it would seem that at the UofMinn library customers have an expectation that the library be a leader in the development of new technologies. Sphere: Related Content


Anonymous said...

What does it mean to be a developer of new technology? Would everyone who answerd that question have a fairly similar conception of the phrase within the context of the survey? I don't think so. The data begs more questions than it answers.

Eric Schnell said...

Ahh, yes. That is the problem with surveys, like LibQual, in general. The issue not only applies how a question is interpreted, but also how the results are interpreted. This is why other forms of customer input/feedback, such as ethnography, are gaining favor.