David A. Nolfi, MLS, AHIP, Health Sciences Librarian & Library Assessment Coordinator
Bridget Euliano, MSLS, Acquisitions Librarian
Gumberg Library at Duquesne University
Who we are
Duquesne University is a Catholic university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with approximately 10,000 students. Gumberg Library is Duquesne’s main library, serving over 170 undergraduate and graduate programs in nine schools (three health sciences schools plus six others).
What we did
We compared health sciences students’ library and information needs with the needs of students in other disciplines. We also wanted to address how libraries can successfully support programs with disparate needs.
Gumberg Library conducted the LibQUAL+ survey in 2012 and invited all Duquesne students, faculty, and staff to participate. The survey, maintained by the Association of Research Libraries, has been used by over 1,000 libraries. It seeks to gauge respondents’ levels of satisfaction with library collections, services, and buildings. We compared the survey results from the three health schools (pharmacy, nursing, and allied health) to results from the other disciplines (humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences).
What we found
We attempted to determine whether programs’ LibQUAL+ rankings correlated with collection expenditures and library instruction sessions. In addition to respondents’ satisfaction with the library, we examined the LibQUAL+ questions that addressed how well the library met respondents’ needs and contributed to their learning and research outcomes.
We grouped the collection budgets into broad categories of health sciences, natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences. This approach made sense, since narrower budget categories do not reflect the fact that many resources support more than one program. For example, clinical medical textbooks may benefit the Family Nurse Practitioner, Physician Assistant, and Doctor of Pharmacy programs.
Although their collection expenditures were the highest, natural sciences respondents consistently rated the library lower than other respondents. Additionally, health sciences expenditures were the second highest but the results were mixed: nursing respondents consistently gave the library the highest rankings, while allied health and pharmacy respondents gave the library mixed rankings.
Both pharmacy and nursing respondents rated collections, and access to collections, more highly than other respondents. Interestingly, all nursing graduate students are distance learners, and sixth-year pharmacy students spend the year off campus. We believe these scores reflected the library’s efforts to maximize the number of electronic health sciences resources.
Looking at library instruction statistics, nursing students’ participation was the second highest (575) among all schools. The humanities programs had a greater attendance total (983), but that figure included substantial numbers of students in core classes who were drawn from all schools. The natural sciences school had the lowest library instruction attendance (41).
What we learned
Our results showed that the level of participation in library instruction programs was the strongest predictor of high LibQUAL+ scores. We also learned that collection budgets were not consistently reliable predictors. However, it is important to note that subscriptions to electronic resources (that provide access at point of need) likely contributed to higher collection scores for nursing and pharmacy.
Looking more closely at nursing, the library reaches undergraduate and graduate students at the beginning of their programs as well as in upper level research courses. Additionally, the library regularly holds workshops for nursing faculty. In the case of pharmacy, the school and the library partnered to offer the major drug information systems students needed in clinical settings.
Overall, we believe that the best predictor of high LibQUAL+ scores is the library’s level of engagement with programs. Even when collection budgets are limited, the student and faculty members’ perceptions of the library are strongest when the library and school work together to provide the instruction and collections that the students and faculty need.