Now More than Ever – Más Que Nunca

I began my morning by checking my Facebook account, where I have a personal page as well as administering two institutional pages (the USFSP Digital Archive page https://www.facebook.com/UsfspDigitalArchive/334095473337022 and the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nelson-Poynter-Memorial-Library/131440917131 ) The top posting on my personal page was from María-Jesús del Olmo who is the Directora del Centro de Recursos Informativos with the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. I got to know María-Jesús when I was speaking in Spain on open access, digital collections and institutional repositories several years ago. This morning (her afternoon) she wrote about an article in El País that describes how the people of Guadalajara, Spain rose up in support of their public library to fight against drastic cutbacks in government support: http://cultura.elpais.com/cultura/2012/10/13/actualidad/1350148036_241892.html

There is no doubt that Spain is enduring a terrible economic crisis. A September 28, 2012 New York Times article http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/spain/index.html  noted that “In April 2012, Spain’s unemployment rate reached 24.4 percent, the highest in Europe and an especially stark figure given that the government had not yet begun to lay off public sector servants in any significant number.” In the face of this crisis, the Spanish government has instituted a series of austerity measures.  One of many measures instituted in municipalities across Spain has been to reduce funding to libraries. The people of Guadalajara have said “enough” and have responded by paying out of their own pockets for library collections and by stepping up to provide volunteer labor, among other things. They have let their government know, as one of their supporters says, that libraries are needed more than ever when the economy is in such bad shape. “En un momento de crisis hay que invertir más que nunca en bibliotecas. La gente no tiene dinero para comprar libros pero sigue necesitando acceder a la cultura y a la información. O es que, además de echarnos del trabajo, ¿tampoco vamos a tener derecho a la cultura y a la información?” (my translation: In a moment of crisis it’s necessary to invest more than ever in libraries. People don’t have money to buy books but they continue to need access to culture and information. Or is it the case that, in addition to losing our jobs, neither are we going to have the right to culture and information?)

Why am I mentioning this? Because the same thing is happening to libraries across the United States, including Florida. Public libraries and academic libraries, like the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, have seen recurring reductions in their budgets for collections and for staffing, which means less access to information, shorter library hours, and less help from professional staff and librarians. The justification from our municipal, state, and federal governments is always the same: “We have to reduce costs, therefore we’re going to cut out non-essential services” –and they always include libraries in their definition of non-essential services. Yet, as the woman from Spain pointed out in the El País article, libraries are even more important to people when the economy is bad. Without taxpayers having access to libraries and the free information and assistance they provide, people will be unable to weather the economic storm. Far from being a drain on the economy, libraries provide a much needed economic boost to their local economies.  In May 2010, the Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development of the University of West Florida produced a report entitled Taxpayer Return on Investment in Florida Public Libraries http://haas.uwf.edu/library/library_study/DraftFinal.pdf where they documented that “Florida’s public libraries return $8.32 for every $1.00 invested from all sources.” The report also documented that:

  • “For every $3,491 spent on public libraries from public funding sources in Florida, one job (in the economy, not just in libraries) is created.
  • For every dollar of public support spent on public libraries in Florida, Gross Regional Product (the value of all goods and services produced in the state) increases by $10.57.
  • For every dollar of public support spent on public libraries in Florida, income (wages) increases by $22.97.”

Since economic return on investment is the name of the game today, we need to produce a similar study for academic libraries in the state.  The Association of College & Research Libraries of the American Library Association has produced a Value of Academic Libraries Toolkit http://www.ala.org/acrl/issues/value/valueofacademiclibrariestoolkit . We in the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library routinely collect data to demonstrate our value to the institution, the students, and the people of Tampa Bay and we have been sharing it with the Regional Chancellor and the rest of the campus administration. We are pleased that Chancellor Hogarth has paid attention to our data and has done what he could to stop the hemorrhaging in funding for library collections and staffing, in spite of the reduced state funding to USFSP as a whole. There is still much to be done and we will be turning to our users in the coming months to help us collect and present our data.

In the meantime, if you are so inclined, we are always happy to receive your financial support. Visit us here http://www.nelson.usf.edu/npml/give.html to see how you can help.

Faculty Satisfaction with the Poynter Library 2011/2012

Every year, the Library surveys faculty to find out if they are satisfied with the Library. Are they satisfied with the print and the electronic collections? Do they get the help they need from library faculty and other library staff? This year’s survey showed a 98% approval rating from faculty for overall library service, with almost all services and collections being rated from 90% to 100% by the faculty using them.

The chart below shows a summary of their rankings for some of the major library services available to USFSP faculty.

.Because of ongoing disputes between USFSP and USF System on the fee paid for electronic resources (now resolved thanks to Interim Chancellor Hogarth), faculty were also asked to rate how a hypothetical significant reduction in the library’s electronic resources would affect their teaching, research, and decision to remain at USFSP:

  • 72% said that a reduction in library electronic resources would Very Significantly or Significantly affect their teaching
  • 86% said that a reduction would Very Significantly or Significantly affect their research
  • 54% said that this would influence their decision to remain here at USFSP

This data from faculty helped the Poynter Library to make the case to Dr. Hogarth that these resources were vitally important to the faculty (and students) and that we needed to pay the System for our share of them.

Selected positive comments from College faculty about the Library:

  • I cannot do my research without a library and most important, librarians.  My students need help with their work as well.
  • I would like to specifically praise the quick response time of the A/V support personnel.  They are right there as soon as you call to help out when something isn’t working properly.
  • Please do not reduce library budget…The Library is a treasure trove and a lifeblood of any educational institution
  • I believe that the library faculty and staff are without exception the most effective group on campus.
  • The library events and exhibits humanize the campus and bring us together.  Finally, I  think that the library forums for sharing faculty research are the most effective on campus.

We are gratified that faculty are generally very satisfied with the Library’s services and we appreciate the many positive comments received.

Selected negative comments from College faculty:

  • More money for services and staff.
  • I would like to get help from an instructional designer for my online class.
  • Please make the library website more intuitive /easier to use.  It is very difficult to understand why some things are classified the way they are.
  • I would like to suggest that faculty be able to complete an online survey / offer feedback after each and every library instruction done for our students.

Regarding the negative comments above:

  • I am happy to report that the our budget requests were given serious consideration this year by Interim Chancellor Hogarth and that we will be able to fill two vacancies and will have a slight increase to our operating budget. Thank you to the faculty and to Vice Chancellor Noonan and Regional Chancellor Hogarth for their support of the Library and its contribution to the academic success of USFSP.
  • Instructional designers are available to help with online classes according to a process coordinated by the Division of Academic Affairs at: http://www1.usfsp.edu/academics/
  • We are working on redesigning the library website based on user feedback and hope to unveil the new design shortly
  • We have already implemented surveys to gather feedback as a routine part of every library instruction class

If you would like to read a more complete analysis of the survey results, you may find them in the USFSP digital archive at: http://dspace.nelson.usf.edu/xmlui/handle/10806/4732

Student Satisfaction with Poynter Library 2011/2012

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Chart of Student Satisfaction with Poynter Library 2011/2012

Every year, the Library surveys students to find out how they think we’re doing. Are we helping them study and do their research? Are we providing a good place for them to work together or alone, or just hang out? The chart above shows the summary of their rankings for some of the major library services available to USFSP students at the Poynter Library.

In addition to ranking facilities, collections, and services, students were asked about their perceptions on how the USFSP library contributed to their academic development. Specifically,

  •  84% of the students state that the library contributed to their ability to obtain and effectively use information for problem solving
  • 76% thought that the library helped them develop critical and analytical abilities
  • 82% thought that the library helped them develop the ability to distinguish scholarly from non-scholarly resources
  • 76% stated that the library helped them develop the ability to evaluate the quality of information from various media sources

Selected positive student comments:

  • The staff in the library is great and very helpful.
  • I use the library website all the time and really appreciate the resources offered.
  • The access to computers is really great; there is always an open one to use.
  • I really like the study places, study rooms that you can get; it allows for group members to be here and still communicate with each other above a whisper.
  • Great place to get my work done with a great environment.
  • Content is easily available and seems extensive.
  • I have had good productive experiences every time I enter the library.
  • All library services are easy to use and easily accessible.

Selected negative student comments:

  • More study rooms.
  • We need free printing, scanning, and longer hours to accommodate our commuter population.
  • It would be better to have a coffee place and get more arm-chairs for individual readers.
  • There should be a quiet computer area.
  • Make library hours longer. The current hours are a joke for a college library; the min hour a library should close is 1am on a school night.
  • Provide tutoring in the library for classes and have more tutoring hours.

We are so happy that the students overall are satisfied with the staff, the collections, and the facility. The negative comments are all about resources. Students need longer hours; they need free printing and photocopying; they need more services; they need more comfort and convenience. The Library faculty and staff agree – students do need more! And we would love to give you more of what YOU need. But WE need your help.

In the past few years, our ability to meet student needs has become more challenging. Specifically,

  • Enrollment has gone up 19.6% in the last 4 years
  • Traffic into the library has increased 29.6% in last 5 years, outstripping the increase in enrollment
  • Circulation activity has increased 5% in last 5 years
  • The number of library instruction sessions offered by librarians increased 70% in last 5 years

Yet, in the face of the growing demand for library services, permanent library staffing has declined 13.6%. We are stretched very thin — too thin to be able to give you all the help and resources you need. Our budget has been cut and we are able to make additions to the Library only by tapping into donations through the USF Foundation.

I would love to hear from students on how we can work together to increase the funding for resources, facilities and staffing so we can continue to give you what you need and want from your library.