A multiple-methods study was conducted in FY15 at Santa Clara University Library to assess 24/5 hours, focusing specifically on impact and value. The purpose was to assess not only the overnight use of the library, but the perceptions of late-night users on the value of 24-hour library accessibility. This three-component study included a survey (conducted over three quarters in FY15, with 616 respondents), hourly patron headcounts, and more detailed headcounts by hour of day and user activity. A fourth component is also now underway (results available by conference time); hourly patron counts are currently being conducted that focus on user space and seating as a way to determine what types of furniture and environments users prefer. These data will be combined with the activity data to develop more detailed “what are they doing and where are they doing it” assessments to inform library issues ranging from the mundane questions concerning 24/5 staffing, services, and hours to more interesting questions that multiple data sets can answer, such as seating preferences (both library location and type of seating) by time of day (here, after midnight) and activity.
Research questions for this study included:
- How many students make use of overnight hours?
- What library services do students need/use after midnight?
- What is the demographic makeup of students utilizing 24/5 library hours, including department and grade point average? Is this representative of the campus as a whole?
- What types of spaces and seating are preferred in overnight hours?
- Do students associate 24/5 library access with academic success? Do their self-reported grade points reflect their opinion?
- How do the perceived value to students and the campus for overnight hours mesh with assessments that point to times of low use and underutilized services?
- More specifically, how do we weigh the political implications of a data-driven decision?
- Are data-driven decisions always right?
Preliminary results show that (between midnight and 7 a.m.) students overwhelmingly bring their own laptops to work in the library and therefore the primary library service they require is wi-fi. The next most-popular activity type after midnight is student use of a library-owned computer, followed by group study and studying alone. The survey results confirm that traditional library services (i.e. reference, circulation, use of print materials, photocopying) are not driving late-night library use. The enticements are wi-fi, comfortable furniture, different spaces and seating geared to different needs, and simply a safe, “clean, well-lighted” environment. And while there is a clear value users attribute to overnight library hours, few users remain in the library between 3-7 a.m.
The variety of data sets used in these analyses result in a wide-range of ways to view and analyze the data. However, multiple data sets can lead to multiple viewpoints. Are data-driven decisions always right? The practical implications of conflicting data will be addressed.
Nutefall, Jennifer and Chrzastowski, Tina, "Is Everything All Right At Night? Measuring User Response to Overnight Library Services" (2016). Staff publications, research, and presentations. 141.