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IALS Library Reader Satisfaction Survey 2016

A survey of readers was carried out between Monday 7th March and Sunday 13th March 2016 in order to find out how satisfied readers are with the Library’s collections and information services. The original two-page survey form created in 2003 was used, as it has been every year since, to ensure consistent quality measurements. This year, an additional question was included, soliciting readers’ suggestions for improvements they would like to see in the Library during the forthcoming renovation programme. Posters advertising the survey were put up throughout the Library for the whole of the survey week and survey forms were continually available at the Library entrance, on the Issue & Enquiry Desk and on the IALS website. Members of the Academic Services team placed a copy on every seat in the Library to encourage returns. A prominent link to the survey was placed on the IALS homepage, and regular ‘pop up’ notices were programmed into networked PCs inviting student returns. The form was also sent electronically through Millennium to all of our academic members, and included in an email to all University of London teaching staff. A prize draw (£50 worth of book vouchers) was also offered to encourage reader participation.

The survey asked readers to rate how the Library generally meets their needs in terms of books, journals, electronic databases, library catalogue, computers, photocopiers, printing, helpfulness of staff, training sessions, study facilities, study environment and opening and closing times. Respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction on a 4-point scale. The definitions of each category were as follows:

  1 = rarely satisfied 3 = often satisfied
  2 = sometimes satisfied 4 = usually satisfied

In total 189 completed survey forms were returned, of which 123 were from LLM students or other postgraduate taught course students, 29 from academic and research staff, 32 from postgraduate research degree students, and 5 from legal practitioners and private scholars. Respondents did not always answer every question.

Highlights of the Survey

The overall satisfaction rate (those who indicated they were either often or usually satisfied) was 95.3% (94.2% in 2015). This is a slight improvement on last year, which was in turn a slight improvement on the year before that, and is consistent with our excellent mid-nineties score for this question virtually every year since the survey began. This is particularly encouraging in light of the fact that our ratings generally have seen a very slight dip from last year’s excellent results – whilst our readers may have specific concerns in certain areas, it has not affected their overall satisfaction with the IALS Library.

As per the last 5 years, the top rating was for helpfulness of the staff, at 97.3%. However, whilst last year 6 questions received plus 90% ratings, this year only 4 questions did (in line with the 2014 survey) with, overall satisfaction at 95.3%, electronic training sessions at 92.1% and range of journals at 90.2%, range of electronic journals and databases and opening times having dipped back below 90%. The fact that the rating for our electronic training sessions has remained above 90% for the ninth year running is particularly gratifying as we have continued to put a great deal of effort into the expansion and development of these. This result clearly shows that researchers and students view our annual programme of research training skills sessions as a major value-added service. Indeed, two of the very few people who marked us poorly for this question went on to state in the comments that their dissatisfaction was due to their not having been able to attend as much of our training programme as they would have liked!

The Library is also very pleased to see that ratings for range of journals has retained a plus 90% rating it scored last year, having dipped below for the previous few years. This highlights that our attempts to maintain a relevant and complete collection, despite annual increases in our collections budget not keeping up with law book inflation, has been successful.

Ratings above 80% were received for quality of computing services (88.9%), range of books (86.7%), range of electronic journals and databases (86.1%), study environment – noise (85.7%), availability of photocopiers (85.6%), opening times (84.7%), ease of use of library catalogue (84.3%), availability of PCs (84%) and availability of printers (81.3%).

The rating for quality of computing facilities, which dipped in the 2014 survey, is showing continued signs of improvement, having increased further still to 88.9% from 82.5% last year. The Information Systems team continue to work to improve computing services at IALS, which is reflected in the improved rating – in the past year they have streamlined the Wi-Fi log on process, simplified network printing, and rolled out new flat screen PCs on the Library concourse. These activities are reflected in a similar improvement in our rating for the availability of PCs.

It is disappointing to see our rating for range of books remain under 90% for a second year, having last year dipped below 90% for the first time since the survey’s inception. The Library is committed to maintaining a comprehensive and up-to-date legal research collection, protecting our book purchasing budget and adding significantly to the collection. We shall continue to monitor this rating closely.

As the national research library for law our priority is to collect and make available the national research collection of printed law books and serials, however we also endeavour to make as much material as possible available electronically to our members. We are disappointed, therefore, to see our satisfaction rating for electronic journals and databases dip back below 90%. The comments section indicates, however, that it is not dissatisfaction with the electronic journals and databases themselves, but with the fact that many of them cannot be accessed remotely which has caused this dip in the rating. Our Information Resources team have negotiated some excellent deals for our user base, but due to our unique position in having members registered at all UK universities, it is often simply not financially possible to extend off campus access offsite.

We are particularly pleased that the rating for (low) noise levels has remained over 80% for the seventh year running. This demonstrates the continued positive effects of library staff policing noise in the reading rooms more actively by undertaking regular patrols is helping to ensure a quiet research environment. Therefore whilst the comments section still includes some references to noise from mobile phones in the reading rooms, there are more comments of a positive nature, commending our silent study atmosphere, and we are confident that the situation is both being monitored and improving.

Our ratings for availability of both photocopiers and printers, whilst both fractionally down appear quite stable, particularly in light of increased footfall in the Library. As noted above, network printing has been simplified and new robust printers are available on the concourse, enabling more people to claim their print jobs more quickly.

Our rating for opening times, having improved significantly last year in the aftermath of our increased opening hours and gaining an above 90% mark, has returned to 84.7%. Perhaps this is inevitable in an era of 24/7 university library facilities. The management committee will continue to monitor the situation.

The rating for ease of use of library catalogue (which fell to 77.9% in 2014), has returned to a mid-80s rating for a second year, although it is still following a general declining trend in this rating. As the Library catalogue has not changed in the past few years, this general decline in marks may be caused by the fact that reader expectations of what a catalogue can offer is increasing. The comments section of the survey saw some people expressing an expectation to see individual journal articles listed, which may be because of the introduction of discovery platform searching to article level elsewhere (e.g. at SOAS Library). This is one of our key desiderata for the proposed new Library Management System which Senate House Library will be implementing in the near future.

Ratings of above 70% were received for closing times (79.5%) and study facilities (78.6%).

It was disappointing to see that the rating for closing times, having improved to an 84.3% rating last year as a direct result of our changing Saturday closing time from 5.30pm to 8.30pm, decline slightly to a below 80% mark. We took the action of extending our closing time as a direct result of the previous year’s survey which indicated a strong desire on the part of our readers to have greater access to the Library at weekends. This year’s reader base, however, will have for the most part only known the Library to have these new extended hours, and may have higher expectations of 24/7 opening hours from their college and university libraries.

Another area seeing a slight decline after marked improvements last year is study facilities, back down to 78.6%, having climbed to 85.9% last year from a similar dip the previous year – a mid-80s rating is consistent with most other previous survey years. This simply underlines how important the upcoming refurbishment programme has now become. This year also saw a continuation of the trend noted for the past couple of years of large number of respondents complaining that it was often difficult to find a seat in the Library. Whilst it is most encouraging that we are seeing our usage increase, it is worrying that some members may be put off using the Library as they have gained the impression that it will be too full. Hopefully the forthcoming renovation of the reading rooms and re-use of the existing space will go a long way to addressing this lack of seating, as extra desks, carrels and group study rooms are currently planned. There were at least thankfully far fewer negative comments about the state of the public toilets within the Library than last year, hopefully indicating that the swift action taken to increase the number of times the toilets are cleaned throughout the day has been positively received.

A rating of 68.9% was received for sufficient copies of LLM textbooks, down on last year’s rating, and following a general trend of declining marks on this question. As noted above, and in the previous few years’ surveys, there has been increased LLM traffic through the Library as some of the colleges are expanding their LLM intake, and competition for LLM textbooks is suffering in the same way as competition for space. It is possible that some of our LLM users do not fully understand our national legal research library responsibilities, expecting simply another teaching collection, although the LLM librarian has advertised this more to students during inductions in recent years. It also seems to be the case that certain ‘core’ LLM subjects (e.g. banking and finance and IP) are becoming increasingly popular across all University of London colleges – certainly these were the topics most commonly cited when people were asked which subject they were studying. We continue to investigate the possibility of meeting certain teaching material requirements through an increased use of e-books, and have taken steps such as acquiring the Oxford Scholarship Online service which contains many hundreds of legal textbooks. Hopefully a combination of such measures, and the LLM librarian remaining responsive to which items are in heavy use and ordering additional copies or placing items in the Short Loan teaching collection will see this rating improve.

The rating for heating has dipped slightly following a slight improvement last year, but remains at a generally consistent 65.2%, still well above the very disappointing 45.2% score in 2012. Whilst the comments section is, as per previous years, scattered with complaints about the excessive heat, this was counterbalanced with some respondents praising the heating levels within the library, and some respondents stating that they were too cold. As per above, it is hoped that the proposed forthcoming refurbishment will give us a greater level of control over heating in the building. In the meantime, library staff will continue to monitor heat in the reading rooms as part of their regular patrols, and open or close windows accordingly.

The lowest rating was received for cost of copying, scanning and printing at 52.9%, in line with last year’s rating of 56.3%. Indeed, this question has consistently scored between 52% and 56.4% for the last seven years running. The cost of photocopying at IALS Library was reduced three times some years ago and has not been increased since then. It now stands at 5 pence per copy, which compares favourably with similar libraries and is broadly in line with other University of London libraries. When the new machines were introduced two and a half years ago, the decision was taken to introduce self-service scanning and charge for it, which has received a few unfavourable comments since inception. However, the majority of fees paid for the machines relate to machine rental, and not to the per-copy or per-click charges. Students may also be increasingly used to free printing through their college, which could cause dissatisfaction with having to pay separately for copying and printing at IALS Library.

In order to update its information, the Library has again enquired about prices at other libraries: most University of London colleges (e.g. UCL, SOAS and KCL) still charge 5 pence per A4 copy, with extra charges for larger or colour copying. LSE reduced its price to 4 pence in April 2005, but charge 8 pence for A3 copies. QMUL also charge 4 pence and 8 pence for A4 and A3 respectively. SOAS charges 5 pence per page, however it should be noted that the 5p charge is regardless of whether it is single or double sided. KCL allocates free printing credit to its students, although it is unclear how much. UCL allocate their students £12 of free copy credit, and SOAS allocate post graduate students £12.50 of free copy credit.

Senate House Library increased its charges to 6p per copy some years ago. The Bodleian Law Library (University of Oxford) has recently decreased its fees from 7 pence to 6 pence per copy (after having increased the cost from 5 pence), although double sided is available for 9p; and the Squire Law Library (University of Cambridge) offer one coin operated machine which can copy an A4 side for 5 pence. In terms of scanning, the situation is very varied. KCL and LSE provide free scanning, but have very limited access to scanners – students must wait for a special computer to be free which has scanning software attached to it. QMUL and UCL offer free scanning through their multi-functional devices, but only to their own registered students. SOAS, the Squire Law Library and Senate House Library charge the same for scanning as they do for copying, and the Bodleian Law Library charges a reduced rate of 2p per scan. It should be noted that scanning remains free for our own IALS research students.

Finally, given the choice, the majority of all respondents wanted more books available in the library (59.8%) rather than more lending outside the library (40.2%).

Although slightly down against last year’s proportions of 67.5% available against 32.5% lending, it is broadly in keeping with the year-on-year majority of readers who would rather have a law collection available to them on demand whenever they visit the Library.

Comments and suggestions

The comments section of the questionnaire provided the usual mix of compliments and suggestions and can be read in a separate report. It should be noted that, in keeping with the low rating for temperature, and as per previous years, the negative comments are dominated by complaints about over-heating. The usual complaints about the cost of copying, printing and scanning have been addressed above. Although, as in previous years, there were some requests for extended borrowing rights, this can be comfortably offset against the large majority of our users who prefer greater availability of materials in the library as opposed to longer loan privileges (many of the people who left comments requesting longer loan periods also ticked the “greater availability in the library” option). In fact, whilst we received a total of 16 negative comments as to our loan periods/availability of core readings in the survey, we received 27 comments commending our good availability of books.

There were again an increased number of requests for, firstly, more seats and, secondly, more seating in the reading rooms for silent study – people commenting that they have been unable to find a seat and have gone elsewhere to study, or that they have to arrive at the library as soon as we open in order to secure a seat. Indeed, this year there were 13 comments specifically addressing these issues.  As noted above, whilst this is a negative comment, it reflects our growing popularity amongst students as a library of choice for their studies, and hopefully this will be addressed during our forthcoming refurbishment and the implementation of our library space re-use plan.

Whilst we received a total of 15 negative comments related to our opening hours, with requests for 24/7 opening and longer weekend hours, there were slightly fewer (and in generally milder language) than last year, and we even received a ‘thank you’ from one regular user who has appreciated our recent moves to extend opening hours in the evenings and at weekends. Tying in with the desire for longer opening hours is a new issue of people wanting Café Lex to be open for longer, particularly as we don’t allow hot drinks into the Library. It may be possible in the future to consider extending the café hours or providing a hot drinks machine again for out of hours use. Although 4 people complained about unstable wifi connections, this is considerably fewer than last year, and is reflected in our improved rating for quality of computing facilities.

The majority of the remainder of the less positive comments were concerned with the state of the library furniture. The Library will be pressing for the forthcoming refurbishment project to include more appropriate furniture in its planning. It should be noted that despite these negative comments, the majority of people were extremely complimentary about the IALS Library, its services, facilities and staff.

To conclude, the Library is very pleased and reassured that since its inception in 2003, we have received consistently very high ratings across almost all categories in our annual user survey, despite our regularly changing membership. We will continue to monitor the dip in some of the ratings in this survey, and all potential areas for improvement will be fully investigated.

Laura Griffiths
Assistant Librarian (Academic Services)
7th April, 2016

Full results of the survey

The following full results of the survey contain responses across all reader categories to 19 specific questions all starting with the text: “Do you feel the Library generally meets your needs in terms of…”. By ticking category 3 or category 4 on the 4-point scale we have assumed that the respondents’ needs were either often satisfied (3) or usually satisfied (4).

    2014 2015 2016
Range of books ? LLM / Other taught course students 92.3% 167 90.4% 122 85.4% 105
Postgraduate research degree students 85.4% 41 79.4% 27 87.5% 28
Academic / research staff 89.8% 44 96.9% 31 89.3% 25
All reader categories (including others) 90.5% 255 89.7% 183 86.7% 163
Sufficient copies of core LLM textbooks ? LLM / Other taught course students 60.7% 102 71% 88 68.4% 80
Postgraduate research degree students 68.4% 13 70.6% 12 80% 12
Academic / research staff 81.8% 18 88.2% 15 40% 2
All reader categories (including others) 63.6% 133 72.4% 115 68.9% 95
Range of journals ? LLM / Other taught course students 88.6% 156 94% 125 93.2% 110
Postgraduate research degree students 89.4% 42 79.4% 27 83.9% 26
Academic / research staff 97.9% 46 100% 33 82.1% 23
All reader categories (including others) 89.7% 245 92.6% 188 90.2% 164
Range of e-journals and databases? LLM / Other taught course students 89.3% 158 90.2% 120 88.2% 104
Postgraduate research degree students 83.3% 40 87.9% 29 80.7% 25
Academic / research staff 95.6% 43 100% 31 92.3% 24
All reader categories (including others) 89.1% 243 91.4% 181 86.1% 154
Ease of use of library catalogue ? LLM / Other taught course students 74.9% 134 83.7% 113 83.5% 101
Postgraduate research degree students 83% 39 82.3% 28 78.1% 25
Academic / research staff 85.1% 40 97% 32 92.6% 25
All reader categories (including others) 77.9% 215 85.9% 176 84.3% 156
Quality of computing facilities ? LLM / Other taught course students 77.3% 136 81.8% 108 88.6% 101
Postgraduate research degree students 77.3% 34 75.8% 25 80% 24
Academic / research staff 86.8% 33 92.9% 26 100% 22
All reader categories (including others) 78.9% 205 82.5% 160 88.9% 151
Availability of PCs ? LLM / Other taught course students 77.3% 133 78.3% 101 84.6% 93
Postgraduate research degree students 71.8% 33 71.9% 23 74.2% 23
Academic / research staff 78.9% 30 93.1% 27 91.3% 21
All reader categories (including others) 76.7% 198 79.5% 152 84% 141
Photocopiers ? LLM / Other taught course students 85.5% 142 89.1% 114 85.7% 96
Postgraduate research degree students 72.7% 32 80% 24 82.8% 24
Academic / research staff 88.1% 37 89.3% 25 90.9% 20
All reader categories (including others) 83.4% 212 87.7% 164 85.6% 143
Printing ? LLM / Other taught course students 77% 127 82.4% 103 80.4% 90
Postgraduate research degree students 76.2% 32 82.8% 24 81.5% 22
Academic / research staff 74.3% 26 88% 22 86.4% 19
All reader categories (including others) 76.3% 186 83.4% 150 81.3% 134
Cost of photocoping / printing ? LLM / Other taught course students 53.6% 89 53.5% 69 53.6% 60
Postgraduate research degree students 47.7% 21 53.3% 16 46.6% 13
Academic / research staff 64.1% 25 69.2% 18 60.9% 14
All reader categories (including others) 54% 136 56.3% 106 52.9% 89
Helpfulness of library staff ? LLM / Other taught course students 98.9% 178 97.8% 132 96.7% 118
Postgraduate research degree students 97.9% 47 97.1% 33 96.8% 30
Academic / research staff 100% 49 100% 34 100% 29
All reader categories (including others) 98.9% 278 98% 202 97.3% 182
Electronic training sessions ? LLM / Other taught course students 93.4% 156 96.1% 122 91.3% 105
Postgraduate research degree students 88.2% 30 100% 27 90.9% 20
Academic / research staff 88.9% 24 100% 19 100% 13
All reader categories (including others) 92.1% 210 97.1% 169 92.1% 141
Study facilities ? LLM / Other taught course students 75.6% 136 83.4% 112 79% 94
Postgraduate research degree students 85.1% 40 87.5% 28 71% 22
Academic / research staff 70% 28 93.8% 30 88% 22
All reader categories (including others) 76.7% 207 85.9% 171 78.6% 140
Study environment - noise ? LLM / Other taught course students 86.2% 156 85.9% 116 87.6% 106
Postgraduate research degree students 91.7% 44 90.9% 30 78.1% 25
Academic / research staff 78% 32 97.1% 33 88% 22
All reader categories (including others) 86.1% 236 88.2% 179 85.7% 156
Study environment - heating ? LLM / Other taught course students 86.2% 156 68.1% 92 65.6% 78
Postgraduate research degree students 73.5% 36 69.7% 23 59.4% 19
Academic / research staff 81% 34 79.4% 27 69.2% 18
All reader categories (including others) 70.3% 194 70% 142 65.2% 118
Opening times ? LLM / Other taught course students 77.8% 140 87.4% 118 81.7% 98
Postgraduate research degree students 93.9% 46 90.9% 30 90.6% 29
Academic / research staff 97.9% 46 100% 33 92.3% 24
All reader categories (including others) 83.9% 235 90.2% 184 84.7% 155
Closing times ? LLM / Other taught course students 67.2% 121 78.5% 106 75.6% 90
Postgraduate research degree students 89.8% 44 90.6% 29 83.9% 26
Academic / research staff 95.7% 44 100% 33 88.5% 23
All reader categories (including others) 75.9% 212 84.3% 171 79.5% 144
Overall, how satisfied ? LLM / Other taught course students 91.7% 165 91.9% 124 95.9% 118
Postgraduate research degree students 91.8% 45 100% 34 90.6% 29
Academic / research staff 95.9% 47 97.1% 33 100% 29
All reader categories (including others) 92.6% 261 94.2% 194 95.3% 180
    2014 2015 2016
More materials available in the library or more lending? LLM / Other taught course students In library 57.1% 101 64.4% 87 54.5% 67
More lending 42.9% 76 35.6% 48 45.5% 56
Postgraduate research degree students In library 57.1% 28 58.8% 20 62.5% 20
More lending 42.9% 21 41.2% 14 37.5% 12
Academic / research staff In library 79.6% 39 85.3% 29 82.8% 24
More lending 20.4% 10 14.7% 5 17.2% 5
All reader categories (including others) In library 60.9% 170 67.5% 139 59.8% 113

Download copy of this report on IALS Library Reader Satisfaction Survey 2016

Any comments on this public report of the 2016 IALS Reader Satisfaction Survey should be emailed to Laura Griffiths, Assistant Librarian, Academic Services at .