Assessing and Improving Library Services at Georgia Southern University.

Author:Lau, Clement Chu Sing


Since the 1960s, the evaluation or assessment of library services has become an increasingly high priority activity for American academic libraries to perform (Kyrillidou & Cook, 2008; Lancaster, 1995; Oakleaf, 2010). The increasing emphasis upon assessment in academic libraries reflects the growth of the higher education outcomes assessment and accountability movement in America in recent years (Hufford, 2013). Because academic libraries are not immune to this movement, they are under pressure to document and prove how their performance contributes to the overall goals, in particular student learning outcomes and student success, of their parent institution (Hernon, Dugan, Schwartz, & Saunders, 2013).

Georgia Southern University has two libraries--Lane Library in Savannah and Zach S. Henderson Library in Statesboro. This article is a case study that describes how one of the libraries, Zach S. Henderson Library assesses and improves its services on an ongoing basis. While the Library has applied multiple assessment tools and methods to evaluate the performance of its services, this article will focus on selective assessment programs, and describe how the Library used the findings to improve its services.

Georgia Southern University Libraries

Georgia Southern University was founded in 1906 and is the largest and most comprehensive public university in the southern Georgia. It is a member of the University System of Georgia which consists of 27 higher education institutions. The University offers nearly 120 degree programs and is designated a Carnegie Doctoral-Research institution.

Early in January 2018, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the consolidation of the Armstrong State University and Georgia Southern University (Coleman, 2017). The new Georgia Southern University has two libraries - each located in its Statesboro and Savannah campus to serve a combined enrollment of approximately 27,000 students.

Before the consolidation, the University enrolled over 20,400 students (Georgia Southern University, 2017). The Zach S. Henderson Library is the only library at Georgia Southern University's Statesboro campus. The Libraries' new mission is to support the University by providing access to information, collections, and services designed to meet the scholarly needs of the University and the public. The Libraries promote independent lifelong learning, employ a learner-centered service ethic, and ensure a comfortable and secure learning environment. Henderson Library is centrally located on a 900-acre campus in a four-story building renovated and expanded in 2008. The total square footage of the building is around 246,000. The Library provides more than 2,000 seats and 30 group study rooms to its users for study and research. The Library has over 410 computers for public use to access library resources, the Internet, and a variety of software applications.

The Library employs 57 staff members and is open 143 hours per week during regular semesters. Research Services, located in the Learning Commons on the second floor, offers in-person, telephone, and online assistance in utilizing library resources and services. Subject library liaisons are available to provide face-to-face library workshops to classes or groups, library orientations and tours, one-on-one research consultations, assistance in ordering or locating materials, and customized hand-outs or research guides. The Library manages an open access digital collection, Digital Commons@Georgia Southern, to showcase the University's research and scholarly output.

Henderson Library currently houses a collection of over 721,000 volumes of printed books and bound periodicals. Many of these materials are kept in its automated retrieval storage facility. In addition to the extensive physical collections, the Library also provides access to a growing number of electronic resources which includes over 374,000 electronic books, 92,000 digital media, 94,000 electronic journals and related resources, and 330 databases that contain indexes, abstracts, full-text articles, and digital images. These electronic resources are easily accessible both on and off campus 24/7.

Through its Alma library services platform and website, Henderson Library extends its resources and services far beyond the walls of its building. The Library is a member of the Georgia's statewide library consortium, GeorgiA LIbrary LEarning Online (GALILEO), which comprises of 27 higher education institutions across the state. Through GALILEO, legitimate users can borrow and access an additional three million book titles, thousands of academic journals, and hundreds of databases. The Library's interlibrary loan service also helps users obtain materials located outside Georgia and throughout the world.

Assessment Activities

Georgia Southern University is committed to building a culture of systematic self-reflection, evidence-based decision-making, and continuous improvement. In 2011, the University established the Office of Institutional Effectiveness (IE), which requires all academic and administrative departments, including the Library to prepare and submit their Institution Effectiveness Plan and Report annually to the IE Office in order to document their performance. The Library has been actively participating in the University's assessment initiative by aligning its assessment plan and action items to the University's assessment efforts, ensuring the Library is contributing to the University's mission, strategic directions, and student success.

Henderson Library constantly evaluates and assesses its service performance to improve service. Over the years, the Library has used different survey instruments and conducted various surveys to measure and evaluate its services. In recent years, the Library administered a series of assessments and solicited user feedback on services such as library work life, distance learning, music listening center, discovery service, library instruction, public service quality, web usability, and space utilization to determine how well it was actually providing library resources and services. The Library utilized a variety of assessment methods...

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