Category Archives: Assessment

Understanding the experiences and needs of Black students at Duke

How can the Duke Libraries better support the needs of Black students at Duke? A team of library staff conducted qualitative research with Black students over the past two years in order to answer this question. This research was part of a multi-year effort at the Libraries to better understand the experiences and needs of various populations at Duke, beginning with first generation college students and continuing this year with a focus on international students.

Our final report discusses the full research process and our findings in more detail than that provided below, including a full list of recommendations resulting from the study.

We began by reading existing research on university and academic libraries’ support of Black students and speaking with key stakeholders on campus, such as Chandra Guinn, the director of the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture. We researched past studies at Duke that had information on the Black student experience, and learned about the history of faculty diversity initiatives and racist incidents that had taken place on campus. We then held two discussion groups and three PhotoVoice sessions with Black graduate and undergraduate students, in addition to analyzing thousands of responses from the Libraries’ 2020 student satisfaction survey broken out by race. Photovoice is a community-based, participatory research method that originated in global health research. Participants take photos in response to prompts and submit them along with captions. This is followed by a group discussion led by participants as they discuss each set of images and captions.

We sought to understand students’ experiences in the Libraries and on campus to improve how all students interact with library services, facilities, and materials. We did not limit our discussions to library services and spaces, as it was important to explore Black students’ experience and use of the Libraries holistically. The research team pursued eight research questions:

  1. To what extent are the Libraries viewed as an inclusive space by Black students?
  2. To what extent is the University viewed as an inclusive space by Black students?
  3. To what extent do students experience microaggressions or bias because of their race in the Libraries, on campus, in Durham, or in North Carolina?
  4. What changes can the Libraries make to ensure Black students feel supported and included? How can the Libraries improve spaces, services, and programs to ensure Black students feel supported and included?
  5. What changes can the University make to ensure Black students feel supported and included? How can the University improve spaces, services, and programs to ensure Black students feel supported and included?
  6. What campus and community services, spaces, and programs do Black students use and find helpful?
  7. What library services, spaces, instruction sessions, and programs do Black students use and find helpful?
  8. What campus and library services, spaces, and programs help Black students feel welcome or supported?

To what extent is Duke University viewed as an inclusive space?

Participants praised many services, programs, and spaces at Duke that contribute to a welcoming environment. At the same time, participants agreed that Duke provides a less inclusive space for Black students than White students. Black students contend with campus culture, curricula, and physical spaces that still largely reflect and center White experiences, history, and values. Academia is a space where Black students do not see themselves valued or accurately represented. From the arts and sciences to statistics and economics, participants reported systemic bias in instructors’ behavior and the scholarship assigned and discussed in class. They experience microaggressions in almost every area of life at Duke. These instances of bias reinforce the idea that their belonging at Duke is qualified.

We found that many Black graduate students have a level of support via their academic programs, beyond what is available to Duke undergraduate students. Participants praised many of their graduate programs for creating inclusive and supportive environments. Elements contributing to such environments include peer and faculty mentors, programs and events, policies, committees, opportunities to be part of decision-making, communication from faculty and administrators, and efforts to increase diversity. Black undergraduate students may be further removed from decision-makers than graduate students, functioning in an anonymous sea of students receiving the same general services. Thus, compared to graduate students, undergraduates may feel less self-efficacy to effect change in campus-wide inclusion efforts.

To what extent are the Libraries viewed as an inclusive space?

Black students largely view the Libraries as inclusive spaces in the sense that they meet their diverse learning needs as underrepresented students at a predominantly White institution (PWI).  When asked whether they see the Libraries as inclusive spaces and whether they feel safe, welcome, and supported at the Libraries, both undergraduate and graduate students listed numerous services and resources offered by the Libraries that they value. These include online journals, the variety of study spaces, the textbook lending program, technology support and resources, events and training opportunities, and research support. Respondents reported positive experiences with the Libraries overall.

However, students also reported some negative interactions with staff and with peers in the Libraries. They also perceive aspects of library spaces to be unwelcoming, specifically to Black students because they center White history. Responses to the 2020 student satisfaction survey showed that while around 88% of both Black and White students agreed that the Libraries are a welcoming place for them, only 60% of Black respondents and 66% of White respondents strongly agreed with the statement. Other aspects of the library experience were perceived as unwelcoming for reasons unrelated to race. Though students reported negative experiences in the Libraries, none reported experiencing bias or microaggressions because of their race in DUL.

Students reported a general feeling that both Duke and Duke Libraries, while not actively hostile or racist, are complicit in their silence. Students do not see enough visible actions and signs supporting diversity and inclusion, efforts to limit White western European cultural dominance, or attempts to educate White students about minority experiences. Participants are not convinced that Duke cares about racist incidents, and believe that Duke and Duke Libraries will not take meaningful action if they complain about or report instances of prejudice or microaggression.

What does it mean to be Black at Duke?

“It’s like I have to prove something to somebody: I’m here for the same reason that you are.”

To walk invisible, to speak for all

Students described the contradiction and contrast of seeing oneself almost universally absent – from the scholarship assigned in class and portraits on the walls, to the faces of faculty reflected from the front of class rooms – while simultaneously representing the entire race to others. This is the reality that many experience at Duke, an elite PWI.

Participants discussed being treated as invisible. One undergraduate male shared that even on campus “people usually avoid me with eye contact, crossing to the other side of the street.” It also takes a toll on Black students not to see their backgrounds and experiences represented in the Duke faculty. Currently, Duke’s faculty is significantly less diverse than the study body. Many Black students know the exact number of Black faculty and administrators in their academic programs, and the numbers matter. At the same time, Black students are often unable to fade into a crowd and are forced to be perennially conscious of their race identity in a way that White students at Duke, at PWIs, and in the United States in general, are not. White students and instructors sometimes treat Black students as monoliths, expecting their views and actions to exemplify those of all Black people. Students discussed pressure “to uphold a good image and to go the extra mile…to actively disprove stereotypes.”

One graduate student said:

I feel like I have to speak for everyone…Black people in America don’t have the privilege of individuality.

The validity of Black students’ presence at Duke is challenged both by fellow students and by Durham community members. Black students are hyper-aware that most Black people on campus are staff, not students, and some discussed unease wondering if people mistake them for staff as well. A student explains the need to prove that they belong, not just academically or intellectually, but even physically on campus:

Every time I walk around campus, I’m like, ‘I need to have my book bag on so people know I’m a student, so people don’t think I’m an employee.’… It’s a focus: I have to look like I’m a student. It’s like I have to prove something to somebody: I’m here for the same reason that you are.

A Black undergraduate recounted a story of how she and her friends were aggressively confronted by a group of White male students one night on their way to an event in a campus building who asked, “Do you even go here?” Many participants discussed how demoralizing it is when White people make the frequent assumption that they were admitted to Duke as part of an athletic program, or tell them that they were accepted to Duke as part of a racial quota instead of on the same academic merits as other students.

Graduate students discussed how Duke seems best able to accommodate two specific kinds of Black student, with room for improvement in how it accommodates others:

Duke makes it accommodating for Black students, but only a specific kind of Black student: Black athletes from America, or very rich African kids. I’m African American but not an athlete, or rich. I’m academically curious, and I just feel like I’m alone.

Participants acknowledge and appreciate the diversity of the Black student experience and wish others would do the same. Black students at Duke are rich and poor. They come from countries spanning the globe and from different religions and cultural backgrounds. While some are athletes, most are not.

Being Black at a predominantly White institution

PWIs such as Duke were not originally intended for Black students. Despite the time that has passed and the number of students of color who have been admitted, Duke remains a historically White space, and this history continues to permeate and shape the culture of the campus. The students in our study were fiercely aware of this history.

Undergraduates expressed concerns that many White students have little comprehension of or interest in understanding the experiences of “the Other” and are surrounded by White peers who are often ignorant of and oblivious to American racial dynamics and the realities of racism. Undergraduate participants perceive that Duke’s curriculum does not prioritize ensuring that all students will be exposed to diverse points of view and experiences through required courses or activities, and interdisciplinary courses tend to be racially segregated.

Duke Libraries and Duke as complacent and complicit

There was a general feeling that Duke Libraries and Duke, while not actively hostile or racist, are complicit in their silence. Students do not see enough explicit signals supporting diversity and inclusion, efforts to limit White western European cultural dominance, or to educate elite White students about minority experiences.

The 2020 Libraries student survey asked students whether they feel safe from discrimination, harassment, and emotional and physical harm at Duke Libraries and at Duke University. There are stark differences by race among the 2,600 students who responded. Black students do not feel as safe from discrimination, harassment, and emotional and physical harm as White students either on campus or in the Libraries.

2020 DUL student satisfaction survey: “I feel safe” at the Libraries
Figure 1. 2020 DUL student satisfaction survey: “I feel safe” at the Libraries
2020 DUL student satisfaction survey: “I feel safe” at Duke University
Figure 2. 2020 DUL student satisfaction survey: “I feel safe” at Duke University

Fewer (34%) of Black students “strongly agree” that they feel safe at Duke University, versus 71% of White students. A quarter of all Black students do not feel safe to some extent, versus only 7% of White students. More Black and White students feel safe in the Libraries than on campus in general, but fewer Black students “strongly agree” with the statement than White students 71% versus 89%.

Discussion group participants believe that if campus spaces want to make minorities feel welcome, they need more visible signs or statements about inclusion and diversity, particularly because the default in Duke spaces is overwhelming visible representations of White people and Western art and architecture. In reference to the Perkins & Bostock Libraries, one graduate student said:

I don’t see an active attempt to make it welcoming per se. Depending on…what your experience has been like as a Black student on campus, I think there would need to be a purposeful and very explicit attempt to make it welcoming. Not to say there’s a malicious attempt to make it unwelcoming.

Systemic injustice perpetuated through the curriculum

“We were absent in the scholarship. Not just black people – any people of color. And when it was there, it was highly problematized…Every time people of color are mentioned, it’s in some kind of negative context. We’re deficient in some sort of way.”

Academics at Duke are often a space where Black students do not see themselves highly represented or valued. From the arts and sciences to statistics and economics, participants report systemic bias in a variety of areas ranging from instructors’ behavior to the scholarship assigned in class. A student in a business class reported the glaring lack of a single case study involving a Black-owned business or a business run by Black people. Another graduate student in the sciences explained:

All of the people you study are dead White men. And if you never did any outside scholarship yourself, you might be convinced that those are the only people who have ever done [redacted] science in the world.

In addition to racial biases in scholarship assigned, participants discussed the behavior of faculty and instructors as it contributed to systemic injustice in the classroom:

Particularly in statistics classes, almost all data that were racialized normalized Whites and problematized Blacks and other minorities, relatively. There was one assignment where we were supposed to look at and interpret the data, and White people were clearly worse off. The professor did gymnastics to interpret it in such a way where Black people would still be worse off. Come on! They couldn’t even see a way for White people to ever be worse off. And this happens all the time. Whether it’s a guest lecture or whatever…They just focus on the disparities, they interpret it very narrowly, and then there’s no discussion of the origins of those disparities or any solutions to them.

Black students often expect to face racial bias in their daily lives outside academia or from other students on campus. But faculty are both mentors and authority figures who represent the face of Duke to their students. Their silence can speak as loudly as their words in molding students’ perceptions of the extent to which Duke, as well as academic fields more broadly, value them.

On White and Western dominance of physical spaces

Physical spaces communicate priorities, expectations, and cultural values both implicitly and explicitly. They do this via architecture, materials in the spaces such as art, signs, and decorations, and social groupings within spaces. There are parts of Duke that Black students find welcoming and inclusive, but overall, participants do not consider the physical spaces of campus to be as inclusive for Black students as they are for White students.

Students across discussion groups listed example after example of spaces at Duke – including a number of libraries – where art and architecture caused physical spaces to feel exclusionary. Duke’s campus and libraries are filled with photography, statues, and portraits depicting mostly White males. This theme was raised by both undergraduates and graduates as a way that campus spaces make Black students (and likely other groups) feel unwelcome and excluded:

In the library at the [professional] school, there’s this room…A bunch of huge paintings of old White guys…It means something, right? Because there’s no other part of that library where you’ll see a big portrait painting of someone who isn’t a White male. It’s more White supremacy in itself: the absence of other people being represented in this school says a lot. If they wanted to do something about it they could. They could put in more paintings. There have been people of color who’ve been through Duke and have gone on to do great things.

The Gothic Reading Room and portraits of white men
Photograph of the Gothic Reading Room filled with portraits of White men

A number of the discussion groups touched on a related topic, which is the lack of a library or a room within the main campus library dedicated to Black studies. Many students came from undergraduate schools that did have such spaces and were surprised to find them lacking at Duke, especially given the presence of the Nicholas Family Reading Room for International Studies (referred to by students as the “Asian reading room”), which houses reference collections for many non-English languages – though not all Asian. One of the more common recommendations across discussion groups was to create such a space within Perkins & Bostock Libraries, similar to the Nicholas Family Reading Room. Such a space would display books and journals related to Black studies or Black history and feature art, photographs, or exhibits related to Black culture or the history of Black people at Duke or in Durham.

Study spaces as social territories

Another aspect of Perkins & Bostock Libraries that feels exclusionary to participants is the territorial dominance of in different parts of the Libraries. This issue was also raised by students in numerous free-text comments of the 2020 student satisfaction survey, focused on Greek Life members laying an unofficial claim to library study spaces. Participants explained that these groups’ behavior often causes students unaffiliated with those fraternities to feel unwelcome in these public, highly-valued study spaces. Both discussion group participants and survey respondents also complained about the groups disturbing other students by not following posted noise norms for quiet study zones and even using library study rooms for fraternity business. One survey respondent said:

The library is divided (perhaps unofficially) into study areas based on Greek and SLG membership. I consider this to be a disgusting practice and it also leaves me (a graduate student) unsure where I can comfortably sit. I just wish the library was not yet another place where the caste system that is the Duke social scene gets reinforced.

Several students discussed how fraternities sometimes reserve bookable library study rooms and use these spaces for business purposes, to bestow access to social resources (in this case, access to parties) that are highly exclusive and closed to the majority of the campus, which further perpetuates exclusivity on campus. The language the students use to describe these interactions (“ostracized,” “uncomfortable,” “not welcomed”) shows the extent to which the presence of these groups in library spaces that are supposed to be inclusive actually makes students feel excluded, as if they cannot use those spaces due to their lack of membership in those groups.

Features of a space matter

The Libraries’ 2020 student survey asked whether respondents enjoy working in a campus library more than other campus spaces. A third of White students “strongly agree” with this statement, versus one-fourth of Black students. Participants in our discussion groups highlighted three features that greatly contribute to study spaces feeling welcoming and supportive, which are likely true for students from all backgrounds: natural light, green spaces and greenery, and vibrant colors.

Library staff have long been aware that students can study and de-stress better in library spaces with natural light. Increasing natural light is only possible when planning and constructing new facilities, but we can review the current spaces to ensure that all areas with natural light have seating options around them. Participants discussed how greenery, even fake plants, contribute to mental well-being and create study spaces that are less stressful. This also includes views of nature out of windows. Vibrant colors and artwork were mentioned time and again as factors that create positive energy and support well-being. Both the Link on the first floor of Bostock Library and the Bryan Center were held up as examples of well-designed spaces at Duke with brightly colored walls and furniture, or artwork.

In comparison, the Perkins & Bostock Libraries were seen as having much room to improve, with the exception of the following spaces: the Link, The Edge, the large reading rooms, light-filled breezeways, and the newly renovated Rubenstein Library. Participants requested that the Perkins & Bostock Libraries modernize its decor and add vibrant colors via paint, carpets, furniture and art. The students feel that the drab colors in study rooms and general open study areas exacerbate the sense of stress that already pervades the library. Students had unapologetically negative views of the atmosphere produced by color and decor choices:

I think Perkins is so uninviting…At a basic level, it’s just not a comfortable, inviting space to me. I hate the lighting. Part of it is that there is very little natural light throughout the library but then I just don’t like the colors that are chosen… It’s depressing. It just seems very outdated.

Campus and library wayfinding came up in multiple discussion groups as an area that needs improvement and contributes to students feeling unwelcome and stressed. Duke’s policy to not have visible external building signage and to use the same architecture for most buildings on West Campus leads newcomers to feel excluded and lost. Participants were critical of the fact that the main campus library has no identifying external feature or sign. Participants also discussed the need for better internal directional and informational signage within the Libraries. Improved signage is necessary both to assist with finding materials, and for guidance on use of study rooms and computer look-up stations. Students like the noise norms and zones designated by signage within the Libraries and want this signage to be larger and more prominent.

Affinity spaces are critical and signal what Duke values

Spaces noted by participants as welcoming and supportive included the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, the Wellness Center, the West Campus Oasis, the Duke Chapel, the Women’s Center, the Bryan Center, gardens and green spaces, and the Center for Multicultural Affairs. Students also spoke enthusiastically about a number of campus services, including the on-campus dentist; Wellness Center activities like a weekly group therapy session for Black women and free physical assessments; movie nights at the Bryan Center; campus buses; the entrepreneurship program; CAPS; the Writing Studio; and state-of-the-art gym facilities.

Many Photovoice participants submitted photographs and captions about the Mary Lou Williams Center, its programming, and its staff. For participants, the fact that Duke University funds and supports programming for such a large, beautiful space highlights Duke’s commitment to Black students and Black culture. However, not everyone feels welcome on the campus as a whole. One student said they go to the Mary Lou to “escape the white gaze” of the broader campus. These spaces should not be seen as spaces one has to go to escape the general campus experience, but rather as spaces that contribute to their campus experience.

Graduate students talked about the robust support networks in their academic programs. Students reported feeling supported in many ways, from professors who learn students’ names and Deans attending welcome lunches with new students, to orientation activities, peer and professor mentor programs, support for healthy work-life balances, and committees on diversity and inclusion.

Participants felt welcomed by events hosted solely for Black students, such as Black Convocation and parties held by Black Greek organizations, as well as outreach from the Mary Lou Williams Center to all incoming Black students.

Program for Duke's Black Convocation 2019
Photovoice image submission of the program for Black Convocation

Library services support students

Library services that were praised included library materials and online resources; the library website; textbook lending; device lending; technology such as scanners, 3D printers, and DVD players in Lilly; events such as snacks and coffee in the library and Puppies in Perkins during finals week; orientation sessions; reservable study rooms; designated noise norms and zones; ePrint; personal assistance from librarians; and Oasis Perkins.[1] Students are surprised by how many services the Libraries offer and want more marketing and information about these services. Library staff should continue to develop outreach strategies for marketing services to students at various points in their programs and majors, both online and within library spaces.

The Libraries textbook lending program came up in every undergraduate discussion group. Students were enthusiastic about the program and the financial burden that it alleviates.

I think [library] rental textbooks are really nice…Knowing that if I change a class I don’t need to buy this book the first week and resell it for only 30%. If you’re paying for your own books, that’s not feasible. It’s…another stress coming into your freshman year of college. Thinking, ‘oh no I have to buy this $200 math book online – no, you can rent it from the library until you know whether you’re even supposed to be in that math class.’ Knowing that I can get through the first part of the semester without having to worry about textbooks is big.

According to results from the Libraries’ 2020 student survey, about one-fourth of all undergraduate students (regardless of race) said that textbook lending is important to them. At the same time, only 48.5% of both Black and White students said that the current program completely meets their needs, and 8% of those who said textbook lending is important to them reported being unaware of the Libraries textbook lending program. The survey also provided the following open-ended prompt to students: “In a perfect world, with unlimited time and resources, the Libraries would…” Eight percent of responses (127 out of 1,535) included a request for the Libraries to provide free textbooks.

Person-to-person interactions make a difference

Interactions with other people can be critical contributors to whether students at Duke feel welcome and supported. Participants discussed many positive interactions on campus and in the Libraries, with library service desk staff, librarians assisting with research, friendly security guards, housekeeping staff, academic program office staff, Mary Lou Williams Center staff, and financial aid officers. Black staff at Duke also provide important social support for students, whether assigned as mentors or simply lending a sympathetic ear. One student immediately thought of a staff member when asked about the most helpful programs and services on campus:

It’s not a program, it’s [an office administrator]. Since she’s a sister, we can just talk about anything. She looks out for me in a way that I know only a Black person would look out.

Library security guards stand out as a group that can help students feel safe and supported with just a friendly word or wave (though as previously noted, security guards can also easily make Black students feel unwelcome):

First semester sophomore year when I was [at the library] really late, there was this one security guard who I saw just going around and around, and each time he would wave. Then I was studying there just two nights ago, I just saw him again and he waved, and it just felt really good.

Affinity groups are important to all students, and especially important to minorities at PWIs. Students mentioned feeling welcomed by the existence of campus student groups such as the Black Student Alliance and Black Graduate & Professional Student Association, Black Greek Life, and spaces for affinity groups to gather (such as the Mary Lou and Black Student Alliance office).

Participants discussed many positive interactions with library staff. Participants value friendliness and good customer service, as well as subject expertise. However, discussions highlighted the fact that initial impressions and experiences are critical, and if students’ initial interaction is negative, they are likely not to come back. In particular, library staff must be mindful of the delicate balance between their roles as teachers and as service providers. While many library staff are trained to teach research skills, students often approach the service desk expecting staff to help them complete their task as quickly and efficiently as possible. Efforts to teach them how to complete the action by themselves instead of just assisting them can be interpreted as patronizing, a rebuke for having “bothered” staff, or poor customer service.

Overall, participants have a positive view of the Libraries. They recommended improvements, especially for physical spaces, and underscored the importance of marketing services such as textbook lending and relaxation events. Participants shared valuable insights that can help library staff understand what it means to be Black at Duke and in Durham, and ways that library staff can make spaces more welcoming and help ease the burden that Black students feel on a daily basis.

What’s next?

These findings became the basis of 34 recommendations outlined in the research team’s full report. One of the top recommendations from participants is that the Libraries dedicate a study space to Black scholarship. Such a space was envisioned to include art, photographs, or exhibits related to Black culture and history and highlight library resources from Black scholars.

The research team has presented and discussed this study at all staff meetings at the Libraries, as well as  to various groups and units on Duke’s campus over the summer of 2020. The report was shared widely within the library community to encourage other libraries to consider these questions and undertake similar work.

In August 2020, the Libraries formed a Black Student Study Next Steps Coordinating Team charged with prioritizing and coordinating the implementation of recommendations from the study, as well as additional recommendations that came out of a staff workshop delving into the Libraries’ 2020 student satisfaction survey. For more information on this study or the Coordinating Team, contact Joyce Chapman joyce.chapman@duke.edu.

Learning from Our Students

Every other year, the Duke University Libraries survey our patrons to learn more about their opinions about library spaces, services, and materials. Our biennial satisfaction survey for 2020 targeted our student patrons (both undergraduate and graduate) and covered topics from navigation of our buildings to website features to access to electronic materials.

Earlier this year, the survey was sent to a sample of 4,000 of our undergraduate and graduate students and was also linked from the library homepage for other students to complete. Almost 2,800 students participated in the survey, about half of whom were undergraduates (spread fairly evenly across all four years of study, except for an overrepresentation of first-year students).

While we will spend several more months reviewing the results and identifying opportunities to improve our services, we have completed our initial analysis of both the fixed choice and free text questions. The following high-level takeaways represent the major themes that emerged across the survey responses.

  1. Students feel safe and welcome in our libraries.
  2. Students cherish the support from library and security staff.
  3. Our Top Textbook initiative has had a huge impact on students.
  4. We need better communication of our norms and enforcement of our policies.
  5. Individuals and small groups have trouble locating private places to work.
  6. Students want better lighting and access to greenery and outdoor spaces.

1. Students feel safe and welcome in our libraries.

This year, we asked students how much they agree with the following statement: “I feel safe from discrimination, harassment, and emotional and physical harm at… Duke University/Duke Libraries.”

The results show that for Duke University, 90% of students at least somewhat agree. For Duke Libraries, 95% of students at least somewhat agree with the statement, and 83% strongly agree. (Note: we asked a similar question in 2018 and saw a similar pattern, but the results aren’t directly comparable because we changed question and the response options.)

Another way we measure how students feel about the library is to ask about their agreement with an additional statement: “For me, the library is a welcoming place.”

Student agreement with this statement was quite high, especially among international and graduate students.

A quote from a response to one of our free-text questions nicely captures some of these reflections from students:

“I generally feel safe and included at the Duke libraries – I particularly like the diverse/inclusive the art installations in the front entrance and at the back of the first floor. These make me feel more included and I wish there were more of them!”

Duke Libraries’ response to this finding:

2. Students cherish the support from library and security staff.

Our survey didn’t specifically ask students if they are satisfied with library staff. This message, however, came through loud and clear in our qualitative comments.

After asking students about whether they feel safe at Duke and at Duke Libraries, we offered them the opportunity to explain with a free-text question (“Please describe your response and your experience with the Duke University Libraries in this context.”).  Of the 260 responses to this question that mentioned library staff, 246 responses (or 95%) were compliments of the staff.

“I appreciate that the Duke Librarians, more than anyone else, go out of their way to make visible their commitment to allyship and inclusivity.”

“Duke libraries staff are extremely kind and caring. They have not judged me for who I am or what I need help with.”

“Everyone I’ve interacted with at the Library has been absolutely wonderful – from folks at the reference desk to the Center for Data and Visualization Sciences staff.”

Other questions were phrased to encourage critiques or requests, but even those questions included staff compliments.

“Keep hiring helpful and kind staff.”

“Great staff! I’ve always found everyone at Duke Libraries very friendly and helpful whenever I run into a library problem I can’t figure out.”

Our Libraries have several groups of staff that interact directly and regularly with our students. We were delighted to see that an important part of our staff family, the security guards, were complimented very explicitly by survey participants.

“The ample lighting and security presence makes me feel that I can be at Duke even when it is late.”

“I feel very safe at the Library knowing that there is always a guard making his/her way around the library and looking out for students. It has been one of my favorite places to work in the University.”

Duke Libraries’ response to this finding:

  • Began work on improvements to security guard training to emphasize the impact of smiling and greetings on student feelings of safety and welcome
  • Provided optional buttons to all staff: pronouns, the trans flag and the LGBTQ flag with the DUL reading devil overlay
  • Encouraged staff to attend Ally/PRIDE trainings and then display their certifications on their staff directory pages
  • Shared DUL User Service Philosophy with all new DUL staff and students

3. Our Top Textbook initiative has had a huge impact on students.

The Libraries currently make textbooks available for short-term loan for the top 100 courses each semester (by enrollment). When asked about services that are important to them, 39% of undergraduates* list this “Top Textbooks” program as important, which means the service ranks right below core library services like ePrint, reservable rooms, and drop-in assistance at a service desk.

“I often take out textbooks for classes on reserve, have taken out a few books, and often study there.”

Furthermore, perhaps thanks to increased marketing efforts following our 2018 survey, only 7% of undergraduates report that they are unaware of the service. About 52% of undergraduates have given some response about how well it meets their needs, suggesting they have some experience using the service.

While this program seems to have had success for outreach and use, students still have some unmet needs in this area. When we ask about the services we should be expanding, just over 50% of undergraduates report that expansions to the textbook program would improve their experience a lot.

“Have more copies of textbooks (I really do enjoy the ones they do have – thanks!!).”

“In a perfect world, the Library [would have] multiple copies of most of the textbooks used by professors. While the inventory of books is huge, the library is missing the ones we actually use in the Econ department.”

* – Note: this question was only shown to students who selected our main West and East Campus libraries as their primary libraries, which comprises only about 92% of undergraduates who identified a primary library.

Duke Libraries’ response to this finding:

  • Increased outreach around this program by targeting faculty teaching supported courses and asking them to advertise program in syllabi
  • Increased physical signage about program around library buildings
  • Note: result of marketing efforts was 150% increase in use of program between spring 2019 and fall 2019

4. We need better communication of our norms and enforcement of our policies.

Unfortunately, students do also experience frustrations in our spaces. One example is the navigation of our spaces, especially the three connected West Campus libraries: Rubenstein, Perkins, and Bostock. On this survey, we asked if students feel confident locating a print book in the library. This question received the second lowest average agreement score of the options presented, for both undergraduates and graduates. Overall, about 23% of students lack confidence in their ability to locate a print book.

As you might expect when a large group of people shares a limited resource, students often struggle to negotiate the use of our study spaces. One area of great importance for effective studying is noise level. Some prefer absolute quiet, some prefer a low-level murmur, and others need to be able to converse freely with friends and project teammates. The Libraries have established noise norms for the various study zones in our libraries, but survey comments suggest that these norms are unclear or not always followed.

“[The Libraries should] separate talking zone and quiet zone more precisely. Someone may chat in considerate quiet zone for a long time, which is annoying.”

Furthermore, over the course of the last few years, we have seen a growth in reports of social groups that “take over” spaces and violate, especially, the noise norms of those spaces. While this stresses already taxed resources by using up seats in study spaces for social activities, it is also regularly mentioned as behavior that harms the welcoming and inclusive atmosphere of the library.

“Do away with the ‘assigned’ seating based on group membership!”

“I feel like groups of people frequent the library and there is no space for inclusion or initiatives to get people going to the library that look like me.”

“I don’t know how this would be done, but I would feel more comfortable in the libraries if undergraduate students didn’t claim and allocate spaces for themselves according to their social groups. As a graduate student of color, I don’t feel comfortable in those spaces.

“I think having the library as ‘satellite sections’ for some Greek organizations can make the library feel daunting. If there is a way to do away with this that would be great.”

Duke Libraries’ response to this finding:

Along with the previously mentioned diversity and inclusion activities, the Libraries are exploring ways of improving the communication of norms and enforcing policies.

  • Began working with Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek and other Student Affairs administrators to address the issues students experience in the Libraries
  • Developed and distributed new signage around finding books in the library, including instructions about how to read a Library of Congress call number
  • Initiated a redesign of our noise norm signage
  • Proposed new furniture arrangements for large, quiet study spaces that discourage conversation and group congregation
  • Began work on improvements to security guard training to empower them to identify and address policy violations and promote a more inclusive environment

5. Individuals and small groups have trouble locating private places to work.

Identifying the best furniture for different study spaces is a constant challenge. On this survey, we asked students about expanded services that improve their experience of the library. Out of 18 options covering furniture, spaces, and other services, the top request for both undergraduate and graduate students was individual desks, with 64% of students responding that they would improve the library experience “a lot.”

“I think some more individual study spaces would be very welcome. I prefer to work on the fourth floor because the desks with dividers are very useful in separating you from others so that you can concentrate on your work and not be bothered by anyone. There are few spaces like this, except for study rooms. Perhaps some more desks with dividers or separate spaces for individual work can help people to have a safe space where they will be free from others attempting to make them feel unsafe.”

Some students report frustration that resources like individual desks aren’t always being used as efficiently as possible. While the Libraries have a policy that belongings should not be used to “reserve” a study space for longer than 15 minutes, this policy is difficult to enforce, leading to spaces that are unusable for long periods of time.

“More individual study rooms and carrels. More seating in general. Somehow stop people from reserving carrels and tables by leaving their belongings there while being away for long periods of time. (Sometimes I am looking for an individual place to sit and it seems like half of the carrels have just belongings left there.) The reservable study rooms seem to all get booked quickly during the finals period, which is disappointing because they are very good to use for working on group final projects.”

Private spaces like  group study rooms and interview rooms are extremely popular among students, consistently ranking in the top 5 for important services and the bottom 5 for how well services are meeting students’ needs, as well as being highly ranked among services that should be expanded. As with desk space, these resources can be informally reserved by leaving belongings in an empty room, leading to frustration when a group needing study space cannot find an empty room. Policies like limits on the amount of time a group can reserve a room and a requirement that rooms be used for group work (or interviews) attempt to make sure these rooms serve their intended purpose, but it is very difficult to enforce those policies.

Duke Libraries’ response to this finding:

  • Created and improved documentation of room policies
  • Began work on new signage for group study rooms to reinforce policies and empower students to push back on inappropriate usages of the spaces
  • Made recommendations for new furniture purchases in line with student needs and desires
  • Proposed new furniture arrangements for large, quiet study spaces that discourage conversation and group congregation
  • Proposed new signage and directories throughout the library to make it easier for students to locate study spaces
  • Enhanced the Find Library Spaces portal page to help students identify spaces appropriate for the type of work they need to do

6. Students want better lighting and access to greenery and outdoor spaces.

A final growing trend among students is the request for spaces that take better advantage of nature. In additional to several free-text comments that mentioned outdoor spaces, outdoor library spaces ranked second in the list of requests for expanded services.

“Incorporate more outdoor study spaces around the library and adding more areas to study with lots of windows and natural light.”

“be a space for a spectrum of socialization and quiet studying, with outdoor space and natural lighting (design for wellness)”

“More plants and green space. This is something I would love to help organize and coordinate.”

This single comment seems to capture all major trends we found in our initial analysis:

“Improve signage to reduce the chaotic feel of navigating the library, create a clearer, less confusing, and more welcoming library layout, increase rooms available for reservation for study or meetings, provide more and more comfortable quiet section seating, improve natural lighting, generally improve the library interiors to match the attractiveness of their facades, provide more printers.”

Duke Libraries’ response to this finding:

    • Refreshed paint, lighting, and carpet in key areas of the library
    • Installed new LED lights throughout the building
    • Advocated for more live plants in the building
    • Proposed outdoor spaces for future renovations
    • Enhanced WIFI access on the patio outside Bostock Library

Next Steps

Our biennial satisfaction surveys offer a high-level view of patron satisfaction and give us a lot of actionable information. The surveys can’t answer every question, however, and often don’t provide enough detail to make specific recommendations. Our complete assessment program elaborates on these results with in-depth user studies, feedback from our student advisory boards, focus groups, and other smaller studies. Over the next two years, we will blend these results with additional data, identify and prioritize projects, and make improvements to our spaces and services.

Credit to UC Berkeley Library for the inspiration for this post.

Where do patrons get lost? A study of library navigation.

In the Assessment & User Experience Department, we’re always looking for ways to improve how our patrons experience the libraries’ physical and online spaces. One of our primary ways of learning about our patrons is our biennial user satisfaction survey, which we use to collect opinions from large groups of our patrons about a wide range of issues.

One topic that comes up regularly among our patrons is the navigation of our physical spaces. Like many libraries, our buildings have evolved over time, and that can make navigating our spaces a bit complicated. On Duke’s West Campus, we have three library buildings that are interconnected – Rubenstein Library, Perkins Library, and Bostock Library. Responses and comments on our biennial survey confirm what we hear anecdotally – patrons have trouble navigating these three buildings.

Deep Dive into Navigation Concerns

But how can we follow up on these reports to improve navigation in our spaces? Ideally, we would gather data from a large number of people over a long period of time to find very common and problematic navigation issues. Our biennial survey offers data from a large number of people over time, but it isn’t a great format for gathering detailed data about narrow subjects like navigation.  Conducting an observational study of our spaces would explore navigation directly, but it would only include a small number of people, and the likelihood that we would catch individuals having trouble with navigation is low. We could try conducting ad hoc surveys of patrons in our spaces, but it would be difficult to ensure we are including people who have had navigation trouble, and it may be difficult for patrons to recall their navigation trouble on the spot.

What we needed was a way of capturing common examples of patrons having trouble with navigation. We decided that, instead of asking patrons themselves, our best resource would be library staff. We know that when patrons are lost in our buildings, they may reach out to staff members they see nearby. By surveying staff instead of patrons, we take advantage of staff who know the buildings well and who are commonly in particular areas of the buildings, noticing and offering help to our struggling patrons.

We decided to send a very simple survey to all staff in these library buildings. Staff could fill it out multiple times, and the only two questions were:

  • What is a common question you have helped patrons with?
  • Where are the patrons when they have this question, typically?

We had a great response from staff (72 responses from 36 individuals), and analyzing the responses showed several sources of confusion.

Pie chart showing categories of responses to library navigation survey. 35% of responses reported patrons in the wrong building. 26% reported patrons in the right general area. The rest were split amongst "wrong campus building," "wrong floor", and "can't find books."

Focusing on questions where patrons are in library spaces and not near a help desk, two concerns account for over 60% of reported patron navigation issues:

  • Building confusion
  • Hidden rooms

Trouble Between Buildings

Our three connected library buildings, unfortunately, connect in ways that are not obvious to new visitors. Because buildings only connect on certain levels, it is easy for patrons to be looking for a location on the right floor but the wrong building. By asking staff for specific locations of both patrons and their desired destination, we could compile the most frequent problems that involve being in the wrong building. Unsurprisingly, the locations that cause the most difficulty are our large meeting rooms and classroom spaces, especially those that are not on the ground floor of the buildings.

The most common problems seem to happen when patrons leave the first floor while in the wrong building, expecting the buildings to connect on the other floors (or not realizing which building they are in). As you can see from the side-view of our buildings below, the Perkins and Bostock library building have easy connections on all floors, but the Rubenstein Library only connects to Perkins on the first floor. Our survey confirmed that this causes many issues for patrons looking for 2nd floor or Lower Level meeting rooms in Perkins and upper level meeting rooms in Rubenstein.

A diagram showing a side-view of navigation between the three library buildings. Rubenstein and Perkins connect on the first floor. Perkins and Bostock connect on all but the first floor.

While we are still in the process of developing and testing possible solutions, we hope to redesign signage in a way that better signposts when patrons should proceed onward on the current floor and when they should transition up or down.

Trouble on the Same Floor

Our survey suggests, unfortunately, that it is not enough to get patrons to the correct floor. Depending on the route the patron takes, there are still common destinations that are difficult to see from stairwells, elevators, and main hallways. Again, this difficulty tends to arise when patrons are looking for meeting rooms. This makes sense, as events held in our meeting rooms can attract patrons who have not yet been to our buildings.

Staff reports for same-floor confusion focus largely on floors where room entrances are hidden in recesses or around corners and where rooms are spaced apart such that it is hard to simply follow room number signage. As a notable example, the 2nd floor of Perkins Library seems especially confusing to patrons, with many different types of destinations, few of which are visible from main entrances and hallways. In the diagram below, you can see some of the main places patrons get lost, indicating a need for better signage visible from these locations. (Pink question marks indicate the lost patrons. Red arrowheads indicate the desired destinations.)

A floor plan of Perkins 2nd floor, with curved arrows showing reports of patrons who are far away from their desired destination.

As we develop solutions to highlight locations of hidden rooms, we are considering options like large vinyl lettering or perpendicular corridor signs that alert people to rooms around corners.

Final Thoughts

This technique worked really well for this informal study – it gave us a great place to start exploring new design solutions, and we can be more proactive about testing new navigation signage before we make permanent changes. Thanks for your great information, DUL staff!

Data Sciencing our Journal Subscriptions

The ongoing tensions between academic institutions and publishers have been escalating the last few months, but those tensions have existed for many years. The term “Big Deal” has been coined to describe a long-standing, industry-wide practice of journal bundling that forces libraries to subscribe to unwanted and unneeded publications rather than paying more for a limited number of individual subscriptions. This is a practice you see in other industries – for example, cable packages that provide hundreds of channels, even if you only want one or two specific channels.

What is especially problematic in higher education is that academics produce and review the content that gets published in the journals (for free), and then the universities have to pay the publishers a subscription fee to access the content. Imagine if YouTube required a subscription fee to watch any videos, including the ones you had posted. It’s a system that makes research harder to access and inhibits global scientific progress, all so publishers can earn an enormous profit margin.

Right now, academic publishing is controlled by five publishers (the “Big Five”) – a monopoly that makes it very difficult for libraries to negotiate better deals. Only very large organizations or consortia, like the University of California, have been able to start pushing back against the system. It will likely take large shake-ups like this for any large changes to take hold, but it in the meantime there may be ways to situate ourselves for making better purchasing decisions.

At Duke, we often review our usage of specific journal titles as we prepare to make purchasing decisions. Usage data comes in a variety of forms, but the most popular are counts of Duke views and downloads that come directly from the publishers and the number of times Duke authors publish in or cite a particular journal. There are many other kinds of data that might be of interest, however, including Duke participation on editorial boards, usage differences across disciplines, and even whether or not the journal is fully open access. Blending various data sources and optimizing the search decisions for a given budget cycle can be overwhelming.

Last fall, Duke University Libraries decided to propose a project for Duke’s Data+ summer program – a summer research experience in data science for undergraduate students. Our project, “Breaking the Bundle: Analyzing Duke’s Journal Subscriptions“, focuses on Duke’s subscriptions to journals published by Elsevier. The program is in its third week, and our team of two incredibly-sharp undergraduates has been hard at work building and blending our datasets. Our goal by the end of summer is to have a proof-of-concept dashboard that lets collection managers adjust the weights of various usage measures to generate an ideal collection of journals for a particular budget.

It is still very early in the process, but the students have been hard at work and have made great progress. We decided it would be best to develop the analysis software and dashboard using R, a statistical computing project with a rich history and many helpful development tools. In addition to publisher-provided views and downloads, the students have been able to use websites and APIs to collect data on journal open access status, editorial boards, numbers of publications, and numbers of citations. All Data+ teams present publicly on the projects twice during the summer, and we hope to schedule a third talk for a library audience before the end of the program on August 2.

Sample R code from the project
Just one of many files of R code generated for the project so far.

We look forward to seeing what the summer will bring! While this project is just one small step, automating the collection and analysis of journal usage will position us well, both for responsible purchases and for a hopefully-changing publishing landscape.

Is there an app for that? The seemingly endless quest to make discovery easier for users

Contributed by Assessment & User Experience Department Practicum Students Amelia Midgett-Nicholson and Allison Cruse 

Duke University Libraries (DUL) is always searching for new ways to increase access and make discovery easier for users. One area users frequently have trouble with is accessing online articles. Too often we hear from students that they cannot find an article PDF they are looking for, or even worse, that they end up paying to get through a journal paywall. To address this problem, DUL’s Assessment and User Experience (AUX) Department explored three possible tools: LibKey Discovery, Kopernio, and Lean Library. After user testing and internal review, LibKey Discovery emerged as the best available tool for the job.  

LibKey Discovery logo

LibKey Discovery is a suite of user-friendly application programming interfaces (APIs) used to enhance the library’s existing discovery system.  The APIs enable one-click access to PDFs for subscribed and open-source content, one-click access to full journal browsing via the BrowZine application, and access to cover art for thousands of journals.  The tool integrates fully with the existing discovery interface and does not require the use of additional plug-ins.

According to their website, LibKey Discovery has the potential to save users thousands of clicks per day by providing one-click access to millions of articles.  The ability to streamline processes enabling the efficient and effective discovery and retrieval of academic journal content prompted the AUX department to investigate the tool and its capabilities further.  An internal review of the system was preceded by an introduction of the tool to Duke’s subject librarians and followed with a preliminary round of student-based user testing.

Current DUL interface
Current DUL discovery interface
LibKey interface
LibKey discovery interface

Pros

  • One-Click Article and Full Journal Access

Both the AUX staff and the subject librarians who performed an initial review of the LibKey Discovery tools were impressed with the ease of article access and full journal browsing.  Three members of the AUX department independently reviewed LibKey’s features and concluded the system does provide substantial utility in its ability to reduce the number of clicks necessary to access articles and journals.

  • Streamlined Appearance

The tool streamlines the appearance and formatting of all journals, thus removing ambiguity in how to access information from different sources within the catalog.  This is beneficial in helping to direct users to the features they want without having to search for points of access. The AUX department review team all found this helpful.

  • Seamless Integration

LibKey Discovery’s APIs integrate fully into the existing DUL discovery interface without the need for users to download an additional plug-in.  This provides users the benefit of the new system without asking them to go through extra steps or make any changes to their current search processes.  Aside from the new one-click options available within the catalog’s search results page, the LibKey interface is indistinguishable from the current DUL interface helping users to benefit from the added functionality without feeling like they need to learn a new system.  

Cons

  • Cost

LibKey Discovery carries a relatively hefty price tag, so its utility to the end-user must be weighed against its cost.  While internal review and testing has indicated LibKey Discovery has the ability to streamline and optimize the discovery process, it must be determined if those benefits are universal enough to warrant the added annual expenditure.

  • Inconsistency in Options

A potential downside to LibKey Discovery is lack of consistency in one-click options between articles.  While many articles provide the option for easy, one-click access to a PDF, the full text online, and full journal access, these options are not available for all content.  As a result, this may cause confusion around the options that are available for users and may diminish the overall utility of the tool depending on what percentage of the catalog’s content is exempt from the one-click features.

LibKey Discovery User Testing Findings

An initial round of user testing was completed with ten student volunteers in the lobby of Perkins Library in early April.  Half of the users were asked to access an article and browse a full journal in the existing DUL system; the other half were asked to perform the same tasks using the LibKey Discovery interface.

Initial testing indicated that student users had a high level of satisfaction with the LibKey interface; however, they were equally satisfied with the existing access points in the DUL catalog.  The final recommendations from the user testing report suggest the need for additional testing to be completed. Specifically, it was recommended that more targeted testing be completed with graduate-level students and faculty as a majority of the original test’s participants were undergraduate students with limited experience searching for and accessing academic journal issues and articles.  It was concluded that testing with a more experienced user group would likely produce better feedback as to the true value of LibKey Discovery.

LibKey Summary

LibKey Discovery is a promising addition to Duke’s existing discovery system.  It allows for streamlined, one-click article and full journal access without disrupting the look and feel of the current interface or requiring the use of a plug-in.  Initial reviews of the system by library staff have been glowing; however, preliminary user testing with student participants indicated the need for additional testing to determine if LibKey’s cost is sufficiently offset by its utility to the user.

Kopernio logo

Kopernio is a free browser plug-in which enables one-click access to academic journal articles. It searches the web for OA copies, institutional repository copies, and copies available through library subscriptions. The tool is designed to connect users to articles on and off campus by managing their subscription credentials and automatically finding the best version of an article no matter where a user is searching.

Given the potential of this tool to help increase access and make discovery easier for students, the AUX department initiated an internal review process. Four members of the department independently downloaded the Kopernio plug-in, thoroughly tested it in a variety of situations, and shared their general and specific notes about the tool.

Pros

  • OA Content + Library Subscription

By its design, Kopernio has an advantage over other plug-in tools that serve a similar function (i.e. Unpaywall). When users first download Kopernio they are asked to register their subscription credentials. This information is saved in the plug-in so users can automatically discover articles available from OA sources, as well as library subscriptions. This is an advantage over other plug-ins that only harvest from freely available sources.

Screenshot: Kopernio sign-in page
Kopernio sign-in page
  • Branding

Kopernio has highly visible and consistent branding. With bright green coloring, the plug-in stands out on a screen and attracts users to click on it to download articles.

  • One-Click

Kopernio is advertised as a “one-click” service, and it pays off in this respect. Using Kopernio to access articles definitely cuts down on the number of clicks required to get to an article’s PDF. The process to download articles to a computer was instantaneous, and most of the time, downloading to the Kopernio storage cloud was just as fast.

Cons

  • Creates New Pain Points

Kopernio’s most advertised strength is its ability to manage subscription credentials. Unfortunately, this strength is also a major data privacy weakness. Security concerns ultimately led to the decision to disable the feature which allowed users to access DUL subscriptions via Kopernio when off-campus. Without this feature, Kopernio only pulls from OA sources and therefore performs the same function that many other tools currently do.

Similar to data privacy concerns, Kopernio also raises copyright concerns. One of Kopernio’s features is its sharing function. You can email articles to anyone, regardless of their university affiliation or if they have downloaded Kopernio already. We tested sending DUL subscription PDFs to users without Duke email addresses and they were able to view the full-text without logging in. It is unclear if they were viewing an OA copy of the article, or if they were seeing an article only meant for DUL authenticated users.

Screenshot: Sharing articles through Kopernio
Sharing an article through Kopernio

Running the Kopernio plug-in noticeably slowed down browser speed. We tested the browser on several different computers, both on campus and off, and we all noticed slower browser speeds. This slow speed led Kopernio to be occasionally buggy (freezing, error messages etc.).

Screenshot showing a buggy screen from Kopernio
Buggy screen while using Kopernio
  • Many Features Don’t Seem Useful

When articles are saved to Kopernio’s cloud storage, users can add descriptive tags. We found this feature awkward to use. Instead of adding tags as you go along, users have to add a tag globally before they can tag an article. Overall, it seemed like more hassle than it was worth.

Kopernio automatically imports article metadata to generate citations. There were too many problems with this feature to make it useful to users. It did not import metadata for all articles that we tested, and there was no way to manually add metadata yourself. Additionally, the citations were automatically formatted in Elsevier Harvard format and we had to go to our settings to change it to a more common citation style.

Lastly, the cloud storage which at first seemed like an asset, was actually a problem. All articles automatically download to cloud storage (called the “Kopernio Locker”) as soon as you click on the Kopernio button. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the limited storage size of the locker. With only 100MB of storage in the free version of Kopernio, we found that after downloading only 2 articles the locker was already 3% full. To make this limited storage work, we would have to go back to our locker and manually delete articles that we did not need, effectively negating the steps saved by having an automatic process.

Lean Library Logo

Lean Library is a similar tool to Kopernio. It offers users one-click access to subscription and open access content through a browser extension. In Fall 2018, DUL staff were days away from purchasing this tool when Lean Library was acquired by SAGE Publishing. DUL staff had been excited to license a tool that was independent and vendor-neutral and so were disappointed to learn about its acquisition. We have found that industry consolidation in the publishing and library information systems environment has lowered competition and resulted in negative experiences for researchers and staff. Further, we take the privacy of our users very seriously and were concerned that Lean Library’s alignment with SAGE Publishing will compromise user security. Whenever possible, DUL aims to support products and services that are offered independently from those with already dominant market positions. For these reasons, we opted not to pursue Lean Library further.

Conclusion

Of the three tools the AUX Department explored, we believe LibKey Discovery to be the most user-friendly and effective option. If purchased, it should streamline journal browsing and article PDF downloads without adversely affecting the existing functionality of DUL’s discovery interfaces.

Wrangling Messy Data with Airtable

The Assessment & User Experience department at Duke University Libraries keeps the libraries’ physical and virtual spaces responsive to user needs by constantly gathering feedback. In additional to our biennial user satisfaction survey, we run usability tests, hold focus groups, and host meetings of our student advisory boards, all in an effort to keep a finger on the pulse of the DUL patrons.

These activities can generate a lot of unstructured data! For example, in a typical meeting of our undergraduate advisory board, we might collect feedback from a dozen or more students, generating seven or more pages of notes and covering a range of topics. We review and act upon some of these comments immediately, but others may influence longer-term planning. As library staff, we know how important it is to store information in a way that promotes future access. This year we decided to pilot a new system for storing and describing our unstructured data.

Airtable logoEnter Airtable. If you’re not familiar, Airtable is a cloud-based database solution. Similar to Google Sheets, Airtable lets you enter and share data in your web browser, but it also offers more powerful features for projects that have messy data or interconnected components. There are many Airtable templates to show off the different features, including project trackers, event planners, and even product catalogs.

For our messy data, we built a simple spreadsheet that was general enough to collect data from a variety of sources. We included columns like basic demographics, the feedback provided, the original question or prompt, the date when feedback was provided, and how we collected the feedback. Then we took advantage of Airtable’s special features to create a column for topical tags. One of the column types in Airtable is called “multiple select“, which means you can add multiple tags to a single comment. Other spreadsheets can’t understand a list of tags in a single cell, but Airtable treats each tag separately and allows us to group and filter comments by each individual tag.

a screenshot of an Airtable database with tagged comments

The ability to look at comments across different feedback channels in one central location has enormous potential. Instead of having to hunt through old Word documents or emails, we have a single database that can be searched, sorted, or filtered to explore trends in comments over time. When a question comes up about how patrons feels about a particular service or space, we can compile data much more easily, and we no longer have to rely on our memory of what feedback we’ve received and when.

screenshot of Airtable tutorial instructions

Airtable’s free accounts have a limited number of rows allowed in each database,  but they do offer a discount on paid plans to educational institutions. We’re only just starting to explore the potential of Airtable, but so far we’ve been happy with the ability to collect our messy data in one place and organize comments with tags.

Want to learn more? Take a look at our recent tutorial on using Airtable for coding survey data, originally offered at the Designing For Digital 2019 conference.

Find your haven at Oasis Perkins

(Thanks to Assessment and User Experience Intern Brenda Yang for this post and for her amazing work on Oasis Perkins!)

What if it was possible to unwind – color, do a jigsaw puzzle, meditate – without leaving the Libraries?

It is at Oasis Perkins! This high-ceilinged refuge is tucked into the fourth floor of Perkins in room 418. It’s a perfect place to escape any finals-related tension palpable in study spaces this time of year.

A floor plan showing the location of Oasis Perkins on the 4th Floor of Perkins LibraryYou’ll find:

  • Yoga mats and meditation cushions
  • A jigsaw puzzle table
  • Coloring books, logic puzzles, and sudoku pages
  • Origami paper and instruction books
  • A quiet nook
  • A white noise machine
  • Plenty of natural light (during the day)
  • And more to explore!

Unlike other fourth floor spaces in Perkins and Bostock meant for silent study, feel free to chat and connect with a friend or strangers, or simply sit and reflect quietly.

How did Oasis Perkins come to be?

A photo of different types of teas from the Tea-laxation event.

One major motivation was direct feedback from students. Comments from our 2018 Student Library Satisfaction Survey made clear that while study spaces at the Duke Libraries are a keystone of many students’ academic lives, it can be a stressful place, especially during the exam season: “I love coming to the library during most of the semester… particularly during finals, there is an overwhelming sense of stress that emanates from the other students at the library.” A few students explicitly requested “a room to relax,” a place to have have a “refreshing study break without leaving the library somehow,” or a “stress-relief room.”

We hope that Oasis Perkins can serve as a dedicated place for students to nurture their well-being, fitting into the ecosystem of Oasis West and Oasis East (which are managed by Duke Wellness). However, Oasis Perkins is located, of course, right inside of Perkins Library – and its doors don’t close.

You’ll also find occasional events hosted in Oasis Perkins, from Koru Meditation classes to “Tea-laxation” events. Check out the Oasis Perkins webpage to stay up to date on events, or be in touch if your organization would like to host a relevant get together in this space!

You can find a smaller space on the second floor at the Prayer and Meditation Room in Perkins 220.

Other Wellness Resources at Duke

For other tips and events to help you end the semester strong, check out the Duke Libraries End of Semester Survival Guide. There are also a number of resources right on Duke’s campus to support your mental health, which include:

Oasis Perkins has existed in its current form for only one short semester! Is there something that could change about the Oasis Perkins that would help you re-charge? Our team at the Libraries would love to make it better for you. Fill out a feedback from in the suggestion box in Oasis Perkins, or reach out to brenda.yang@duke.edu with your comments or suggestions.

Understanding the experiences and needs of 1G students at Duke

How can the Duke Libraries support the needs of first-generation (1G) college students at Duke?

A team of library staff became interested in this question after noticing that 1G students’ responses to a survey question about the Libraries were different from those of continuing-generation students. While many 1G students are successful in and out of Duke classrooms, we wondered how their experiences might differ from those of continuing-generation students.

To begin our project, we read existing research on academic libraries’ support of 1G students and spoke  with offices on campus that support 1G students, such as the Duke Office of Access & Outreach. Then, we conducted six focus groups with 1G students, in addition to analyzing responses from the Libraries’ 2018 user survey (which included 2,381 student responses) for 1G and continuing generation students. Our full report discusses this process and our findings in more detail, including concrete recommendations for improving library services.

While the experiences of 1G students are not monolithic, we identified nine core findings, which speak to challenges students experience and suggest specific points for intervention and support. One important overall finding is that 1G challenges are student challenges: support or expansions of campus and library services targeted toward 1G students will help all students succeed.

Finding 1. 1G students perceive a dearth of academic and social information capital.

We asked all focus group participants the following, “Have you ever felt like other people around you know things about college that you don’t know about?” Each time, the response from the group was an overwhelming expression of, “Yes, of course, all the time.” One student captured the experience of her continuing-generation:

“Who told you that? Have you been told your whole life you have to do this? Was there an info session I missed?”

Students repeatedly referred to Duke’s demanding academic environment and the abrupt transition from their high school habits to the expectations of Duke classrooms. At times Duke staff may also take for granted how much knowledge incoming students have.

Information capital is not limited to classrooms; it is also used in social contexts and in navigating college life. 1G experiences are diverse: while some students reported feelings of isolation, others described feeling supported through orientation programs and a lively community on Duke’s East Campus, where many undergraduates live.

While 1G students perceive that continuing generation students are able to rely on family to guide them through the myriad of informational and financial challenges encountered in college, 1G students do not have access to this information from their parents. In addition, they sometimes feel unable to share the stress of college with their parents.

“You have the pressure of pretending ‘I’m okay.’  My parents are so proud of me that I can’t tell them what’s really going on.”

Finding 2. Finances are stressful, and an early source of feeling unwelcome.

Our past research suggested that feeling that one doesn’t belong is a global concern for first-years adjusting to life on a college campus, and one particularly poignant for 1G students. Duke is no exception. Several focus group participants shared comments they received from their peers after revealing that they were the first in their families to attend college:

“Oh you’re smart for a first-generation student. I never would have known!”

First-year focus group participants quoted other early encounters with roommates or colleagues that continued to sting. Many of these comments reflect the fact that financial security is one of the starkest differentiators between many 1G students and their peers at Duke.

“There’s definitely a mentality that exists at Duke that middle class is poor and lower class is even worse. Not that everybody is like that, but it certainly exists.”

When 1G students reveal aspects of their own financial circumstances to their peers, they receive blowback in several ways. For example, a few students shared that their financial aid was stigmatized, with other students suggesting that those who receive aid are very “lucky” to pay so little, or stating explicitly their own significant costs of attendance, possibly to engender shame or guilt. These experiences are formative, alienating, and angering.

Finding 3. An ecosystem of supportive offices and people on campus is critical, but knowledge of and willingness to access resources takes time.

The landscape described above is important to understand because it is the one 1G students step into when they arrive at Duke. However, peer attitudes and financial impediments are difficult intervention points. In contrast, faculty, older peers, and staff are better positioned to be support systems native to the institution:

“When you go to Duke resources, people are more than happy to help you. Adults at Duke are much more receptive and much more understanding of our issues as first-generation students.”

In general, students spoke warmly of the many services, programs, and offices offered on campus. This included the Office of A&O, resident assistants (RAs), peer advisors, a close community on East Campus as freshmen, pre-orientation, the Women’s Center, the Financial Aid office, Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), Duke Reach, and cultural student groups.

Word cloud of campus spaces that 1G focus group respondents identified as safe and welcoming

The staff in the Office of A&O were mentioned frequently. Students praised staff members, citing their open door policy, knowledge, and willingness to offer genuine and consistent support.

Unfortunately, some students reported feeling stigmatized by others when they were known to have used campus resources such as CAPS, the Academic Resource Center (ARC), the Women’s Center, and identity centers.

Finding 4. The cost of textbooks is a special pain point.

In most focus groups, students shared the challenge, stress, and fear of purchasing expensive textbooks. This anxiety about textbooks rests on top of an ongoing concern about finances. Students described extensive efforts to find affordable copies, taking great pains to maintain their workbooks so they could re-sell them at the end of the semester, and to locate upper-level textbooks that were not available through Textbook on Reserve.

“[Laughter] I’ve never researched so hard as when I’m looking for a digital version of a textbook!”

Students who knew about and utilized the Libraries Textbooks on Reserve made special note of its impact and importance in alleviating some financial burden.

“The textbook rental program has been really important and impactful for me… To get them here and be able to rent them out for 3 hours has been perfect. It’s really important to have that.”

Results from the Libraries biennial student survey also support the idea that the Textbooks on Reserve program is particularly important for 1G students.

Finding 5. 1G challenges are challenges common to many Duke students.

Broadly speaking, 1G students’ responses to our 2018 survey did not differ from those of continuing-generation students. Both groups are generally confident in their ability to use library resources and report that they have successfully used the library and/or the library website to find research articles and books for class assignments. They find the website easy to use, believe that the library is welcoming, that library staff are helpful, and that the library is an important part of their experience at Duke.

1G students were more likely to report that expansion of the Textbooks on Reserve program and the device-lending program (for borrowing equipment such as laptops or cameras) would improve their library experience a great deal.

Overall, the four areas in which more than 50% of all undergraduates responded that expanded services would improve their library experience “a lot” include:

  • More spaces for quiet/individual study
  • More textbooks to check out for my classes
  • Additional specialized spaces for honors researchers, graduate students, or other student populations
  • More spaces for collaborative study

Survey data indicated a few differences between the services that 1G and continuing generation students believe to be important to their academics. The chart below shows services that 1G students more frequently listed as “important” than continuing generation students.

Survey responses of services that are important to students. Items shown are those that reflect a greater than 10%-pt difference between 1G and continuing generation students

Finding 6. It is sometimes hard to find existing resources at the Libraries.

When asked about services they wish they had known about earlier, our 1G focus group participants mentioned the Textbooks on Reserve program, library workshops (e.g., Matlab workshops), subject librarians, lockers available for short-term use, and the ability to reserve study rooms. Students described numerous library resources they have discovered seemingly by chance or long after their first semester at Duke. At multiple points during the focus groups students expressed that important services are not adequately marketed or shared with all 1G students. First-year 1G students reiterated the feeling of “unknown unknowns”: of understanding that many resources are available, but often finding it difficult to locate specific points of access.

Finding 7. Getting help from experts at the Libraries is important, but difficult.

1G students indicated that reaching out to library staff can be intimidating or even frightening. They described an initial barrier to asking for help, even while knowing it is likely the best way to receive assistance. Students noted feeling that their questions are “silly,” and they believe they have “gaps” in their knowledge. Students also reflected that it would be helpful for the person providing guidance to understand students’ lack of familiarity with library resources and services.

“We have a librarian for an English department, and for the Linguistics department… but it would be awesome to have a 1G librarian. Just someone who already knows that we don’t know anything, and it’s okay.”

Finding 8. Checking out books using call numbers is daunting.

Focus group participants frequently noted difficulty finding and checking out books using call numbers. 1G students did not pin this difficulty on library staff, but rather on their own lack of knowledge.

“The assumption is that we’ve been in libraries before.  They [library staff] were helpful after I admitted I didn’t know my way around.”

The stacks are an understandably daunting environment, especially for those unfamiliar with academic libraries. Students reported feeling supported once they made their confusion clear. Previous assessments have shown that the difficulty of understanding call numbers and finding materials in the Libraries is one experienced by many students, regardless of 1G status.

Finding 9. While students generally view the Libraries as a safe space, 1G students feel less strongly that this is true.

Some of the most striking differences in responses between 1G and continuing-generation students relate to the survey question asking the extent to which both Duke Campus and the Libraries feel like a safe space. For the purposes of the user survey, a “safe space” was defined as a place in which people can feel safe from discrimination, harassment, and any other emotional or physical harm.

Only 20% of 1G students “strongly agree” that Duke Campus is a safe space for them, compared to 36% of continuing-generation students. While it is a small percent, four times as many 1G students (4% compared to 1%) “strongly disagree” that campus is a safe space for them. Duke University has some work to do before all students, and especially 1G students, feel that it is a safe space.

Both 1G and continuing generation students feel strongly that the Libraries are more of a safe space than Duke University. This is encouraging, as a major goal of the Libraries is to provide a welcoming space for all. Differences in feelings about the Libraries as a safe space between 1G and non-1G are less stark but still present: 52% of 1G students “strongly agree” that the Libraries are a safe space compared to 61% of continuing-generation students.

Summary

First-generation students are resilient and successful members of the Duke community. The early years on campus, which involve finding the right communities for support and learning new academic skills, can be a difficult transition for some. While all students experience challenges in college, 1G students may not have access to certain sources of information capital and can have significant financial stressors that are difficult for many peers to understand. The Duke University Libraries are well poised to support the success of 1G students on campus. Library staff can help reduce the burdens associated with transitioning from high school to college by making academic and research support known to students early and often, providing access to cost-prohibitive textbooks, and continuing to make the Duke Libraries a welcoming space for all students.

What’s next?

These findings became the basis of the 19 recommendations outlined in the research team’s full report. For example, one important recommendation was to expand the Textbooks on Reserve program. Though the library already had a pilot program, it became clear that all students would benefit from expanding the program to include more textbooks and increasing marketing of the program. This fall the program expanded to include textbooks from the 100 largest courses on campus, and the Libraries has already seen an increase in student use of these books. There was also a recommendation that a librarian be designated as a 1G Student Success Librarian as a way to build the ecosystem of supportive offices and people described in focus groups. Arianne Hartsell-Gundy is currently serving in this role as a way to coordinate the libraries’ efforts, make connections with other programs and departments providing support, and serve as a point of contact for 1G students.

Additionally, The Libraries formed a 1G Study Recommendations Implementation Team (headed by the 1G Student Success Librarian) to prioritize recommendations and work across the Libraries to improve services, library instruction, and marketing/outreach to 1G students. One of the team’s first projects was to increase the library presence during the Rubenstein Scholars summer program. In addition to providing a library instruction session and one-on-one appointments with the students in this program, librarians attended a poster session and a mixer as a way to increase their presence. Also, the team is engaging with the staff dedicated to working on our service desks to find ways to help students feel more comfortable asking questions and navigating our book stacks. The team is pleased with their progress thus far and looks forward to finding new ways to connect with and support 1G students.

By: Joyce Chapman, Brenda Yang, Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Emily Daly

Textbooks and Bean Bags: The 2018 Student Library Satisfaction Survey

This spring, Duke University Libraries conducted the 2018 biennial user satisfaction survey, a large survey of students and faculty at Duke. The goal of the survey is to gauge overall user satisfaction and to gather specific ideas for improvements to DUL materials, services, and spaces. In this post, we’ll share some of the trends within the student responses.

Survey methodology

Since 2013, DUL has created custom surveys rather than use generic survey products, allowing us to customize questions to different patron groups and even different parts of the campus libraries system. Developing and analyzing the results of a customized survey, however, is no small feat! The survey is run every two years, in part because the full cycle of survey development, dissemination, analysis, and follow-up takes the entire two years.

The 2018 survey was deployed in January 2018. A sample of students and faculty received personal invitations over email, but the survey was also advertised on the DUL website and open to anyone. We received responses from 2,610 students. We don’t have full demographic information for everyone, but approximately 54% of the students for whom we have demographics were undergraduates. The survey took approximately five to seven minutes to complete.

Two pie charts. One pie chart shows the distribution of the total 2,610 student participants (48% undergraduate, 41% graduate, 12% unknown). The second pie chart shows the distribution of the 2,307 participants that don't include unknown (54% undergraduate, 46% graduate).
After the survey closed, a group of seven staff at DUL divided up approximately 3,600 free-text responses and manually coded them for topic and, where appropriate, whether they were a request for a new service or change in existing policy or a compliment. The survey data have been visualized in a series of public dashboards. To gather additional information about some of the results, the Assessment & User Experience department also hosted several follow-up focus groups with both students and faculty. The focus group results, while not incorporated into the survey dashboards, have been incorporated into summary reports and recommendations.

The good

“I think the library is one of the places of greatest mutual respect on campus. There is less social stratification and freer flow of interaction. I enjoy my time in the library quite a lot.”

The survey included questions that everyone answered and questions that were specific to different libraries. All survey participants identified which library they visited most frequently. For students, 77% selected Perkins & Bostock as their primary libraries. Only 3% (76 students) reported that they don’t physically visit a library.

A bubble chart showing the libraries visited most frequently by students. Perkins & Bostock Libraries are highest with 77%, followed by Lilly Library with 11% and Divinity Library with 6%.

The libraries are considered an important part of the Duke experience by over 80% of participants. Focusing on the students who picked Perkins & Bostock as their primary libraries, we can look at usage of and satisfaction with the library. Of the 1,978 students who responded, over 80% visit Perkins & Bostock at least once a week. And by and large, students are quite satisfied with Perkins & Bostock. Less than 1% of responses fall in the “not satisfied at all” or “not very satisfied” categories, and the vast majority are very satisfied.

Three related bar charts. The first bar chart shows responses to a question asking students to agree that the library is an important part of their experience. 30% of students selected "somewhat agree," and 51% selected "strongly agree." A second chart shows that, for the Perkins & Bostock Libraries, 18% of students visit once a week, 38% visit more than once a week, and 25% visit daily. The third chart shows that for overall satisfaction with Perkins & Bostock, 14% are somewhat satisfied, 65% are very satisfied, and 21% are extremely satisfied.

The Duke University Libraries value diversity of thought, perspective, experience, and background and are actively committed to a culture of inclusion and respect. Beyond gauging user satisfaction, this year we also asked students about their impressions of Duke and DUL as safe spaces. (In the survey, “safe space” was defined as “a place in which people can feel safe from discrimination, harassment, and any other emotional or physical harm.”) We were excited to find that overall students agree that DUL is a safe space (92% respond with “agree” or “strongly agree”), even more than they agree that Duke University as a whole is a safe space (78% response with “agree” or “strongly agree”). Similarly, when asked if the library is a welcoming place, almost 90% agreed. Despite these encouraging numbers, we are committed to continuing to improve in this area wherever we can.

Three related bar charts. The first chart shows that when asked if Duke University is a safe space, 44% somewhat agree and 34% strongly agree. The second chart shows that when asked if the Duke Libraries are a safe space, 32% somewhat agree and 60% strongly agree. The third chart shows that when asked if the library is a welcoming place, 35% somewhat agree and 53% strongly agree.

The So-So

“I use the libraries a lot to study (esp Bostock) with friends, which is both helpful for me academically and comforting for me socially. The libraries fills up pretty often during busy times, so I wonder if more chairs would help accommodate more students (not even more tables, just more seating). Thanks!”

Even though by-and-large students are satisfied with the libraries, they were not afraid to let us know what areas could be improved! They gave us their constructive criticism in a few ways. First, we asked students to offer their opinions on the possibility of expanding different types of library services. Next, we asked how important specific services, materials, and spaces were, as well as how they were meeting the students’ needs. Finally, we gave them the opportunity to offer additional comments about DUL and suggestions on how to make DUL more of a safe space.

When we asked students what services should be expanded, students were most likely to vote for more spaces for individual study, more spaces for collaborative study, and more textbooks to check out. A second tier of requests include better signage, delivery of items between campuses, lockers, and help with digital scholarship.

A stacked bar chart showing the results to a question about the desirability of various specific services. The most desirable service is "more spaces for quiet or individual study," which 88% of responding students said would improve their experience either a little or a lot. Second is "more spaces for collaborative study" with 80% of responding students. Third is "more textbooks to check out for my classes" with 71% of responding students.

Looking at library-specific responses, we can find a bit more detail about these requests. When looking for services that are both important and not meeting students’ needs, we can see that reservable project/study rooms, a variety of seating options,  adequate quiet study space, and textbooks on reserve all appear in the high quadrant for both importance and not meeting students’ needs.

A scatterplot showing that four services are high on importance and on the percentage of students whose needs are not met: adequate quiet study space; variety of seating options; reservable study/project rooms; and print book, textbooks and articles on reserve for classes.

While not every student followed up on these questions with free-text explanations, the analysis of the free-text comments are consistent with these results. Of the 769 student comments that included requests for new services or a change in policy (rather than compliments), the top code was study/research space, which accounts for approximately 12% of the total requests. The second most frequent code was noise (about 9.5% of the requests), clarifying some of the complaints about “adequate quiet study space.” Requests often include a desire for the Libraries’ quiet space policies to be better enforced. The third most frequent code was atmosphere/sense of welcome – e.g., how inviting the library feels, feelings of “stress in the air.” This code was applied to just over 8% of the requests.

A bar chart showing the top 10 topical tags for requests, including study/research space (about 12%), noise (about 9.5%), and atmosphere/sense of welcome (just over 8%)

Security, furniture, advertising, and signage also ranked highly among requests. Students seem especially desirous of “comfortable” seating; write-in comments mention several types of comfortable seating by name, including couches and bean bags.

The Unknown

“Having taken this survey, I have realized that there are many things which the Duke University Libraries offer which I am not currently taking advantage of…”

While student needs and reactions change over time, one thing remains the same: they unknowingly request services we already offer. Sometimes the survey itself alerts students to particular services.

When we ask students how certain services are meeting their needs or which services should be expanded, we offer a choice labelled “I didn’t know the the library provided this.” Here are some of our most pressing “marketing opportunities,” according to the number of people who were unaware of the service.

A dumbbell plot showing the percentage of students who didn't know about a service, split into those who did find the service important to their research, coursework or teaching and those who did not. Regardless of importance, the service with the highest percentage of students who did not know about it was "support for using, analyzing, and visualizing data." Second highest was "self-checkout stations," followed by "scheduled assistance from library staff."

For each service, there are two values – one for the students who marked the service as important and another for those who didn’t. As might be expected, awareness is always lower among students who don’t find the service important, but there are also services that have lower awareness overall. Services like support analyzing data, self-checkout stations, meetings with library staff, and reservable interview rooms may be good candidates for increased marketing. (If you look at the previous scatterplot, you’ll see that reservable interview rooms also had a high value for students whose needs weren’t being met, even though it’s not rated very highly on importance.)

Another good indicator of marketing opportunities is our analysis of the students’ free-text comments. Some of the major requests from students actually match up well with some of our existing but possibly under-advertised services.

We already know that students are always on the lookout for quiet study spaces. This need is especially pronounced for graduate students, who seem to feel outnumbered by undergraduates, who need quiet space for long periods to work on independent research projects, and who don’t always have private office space elsewhere on campus. When we asked students about services they would like us to expand, we offered them the opportunity to comment on “Additional specialized spaces for honors researchers, graduate students, or other student populations.” Out of 281 total comments on additional specialized spaces, 142 (or almost 51%) mentioned graduate students. In analyzing the comments and in follow-up focus groups with graduate students, however, it appears that many are not aware of either one or both of the dedicated graduate student spaces in Perkins Library.

Riess Graduate Student Reading Room

a photo from outside a room, showing 2 large tables with 8 chairs each and outlets along the top. The room has windows along the back wall and a keypad on the door.

The graduate reading room is a shared reading space for graduate students on the 2nd floor of Perkins. It has a key pad entry code that can be obtained from the Library Service Desk. The room is has good natural lighting and is an “absolutely quiet” zone. Some of the requests indicate that students would like more individual desks, however, so some students may be unsatisfied with this as the only dedicated space open to all graduate students.

Graduate Research Commons

a photo of a room with many cubicles and lockers and a few windows in the back

In the spring of 2016, a large room on the second floor of Perkins was converted into the Graduate Research Commons. The space has 27 individual cubicles of two different heights, adjustable sit-stand desks, and dedicated lockers for all users. The room also includes a technology center with an e-Print terminal, a scanner, and a desktop computer with the Adobe software suite.

Unlike the Graduate Reading Room, however, students must apply for access to the Graduate Research Commons. Despite its many features, the space has been underutilized, and it appears that many students are not familiar with it and have never tried to apply for access. A review of this space could reveal ways to market and set policies for the space.

Next Steps

To determine the most needed and feasible improvements for follow-up, the Assessment & User Experience department will host a DUL-wide staff workshop in July to review the results and make specific recommendations to improve the experience of all of our users. Contact us if you would like information more about this workshop.

We look forward to sharing more of our progress on this and other assessment projects for DUL in the future!