Reference, User Services and Library Instruction

Libraries are essential to the academic enterprise

Academic staff members spent a large portion of their work time on scholarly reading. They value the outcomes this reading has on their research and teaching. The amount of time they spend on reading from the library’s collections is evidence of the importance of library-provided scholarly materials to academic work. The value academic reading has on the work of the university is apparent, and the university library, especially for article readings, is essential to the quality of the academic enterprise (p. 122). 

Library collections support academics

Of the 448 hours per year spent on scholarly reading, the average academic staff member spends 187 hours reading library-provided material, confirming the value of the library’s collections (p. 120).

Library materials are crucial to academic institutions

Once [the respondents] became aware of the last article they read, we asked where they obtained the article. Of the 1189 responses to the question, almost two-thirds (775, 65.2%) of the readings are obtained through a library subscription. Many respondents praised the importance of library sources, including one respondent who summed it up as, “Accessibility of scholarly journals and other library resources is crucial to the standing and effectiveness of a university and is a key discriminator between world-class universities and less prestigious institutions” (p. 40). 

Value of academic reference service

Using CV, this study shows that the average student on the academic campus of VCU values reference desk services at approximately $5.59 per semester. The average member of the instructional faculty values this service at $45.76 per year. No attempt was made to estimate the value that university staff and the general public place on reference desk service. Given reasonable assumptions about the cost of service, students and faculty place a value on the current hours of reference desk service that exceeds the cost by a ratio of 3.5 to 1 (pp. 67-68).

Academic work would suffer without library sources

Seventeen percent of the readings [respondents] obtained from the library would not otherwise be obtained if they were not available from the library. This is a lost opportunity, and the value of the academic work would suffer if the library sources were unavailable. In addition, if the library were unavailable, the respondents stated that they would expect it would take them more time and money to obtain the information from another source (p. 3).

Increased Importance of Libraries Amongst Users

The National Library of Finland coordinated a customer survey for users of research and special libraries as well as public libraries in 2010. The first national online questionnaire was conducted in 2006. The number of responses rose by 56% compared to the previous survey. In the public library sector, over 80% of the users agreed that the library services had supported their cultural and literary interests. Around 80% of the university and university applied sciences library users thought that libraries had helped to improve the quality of their work and studies, the same was true for 71% of the special library respondents. In all libraries, the staff's willingness to provide assistance was one of the most important factors affecting the quality of service. In terms of their service attitude, libraries were assessed as having succeeded as well or even slightly better than two years ago.

Users learn about educational programs at the library

A first step in meeting educational needs for many users is learning about a program of study—almost 37 percent of library computer users who engaged in educational activities indicated that they used library computer resources to look for information on educational programs ranging from GEDs to graduate degrees. (p.61)
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