STAFF RESOURCES

Rutgers University
DLI-II Faculty and Student Focus Group Report

Prepared by:

Marie L. Radford, Ph.D.
Acting Dean
School of Information & Library Science
Pratt Institute
(973) 267-7996
mradford@prodigy.net

and

Dan O'Connor, Ph.D.
Department of Library & Information Science
SCILS, Rutgers University
(732) 932-7500 x8219
oconnor@scils.rutgers.edu

July 20, 2004

Executive Summary

This executive summary provides an overview of the findings of a series of eight focus groups designed to help the Rutgers University Libraries plan strategic directions for the next five years. Five groups with a total of 40 faculty/administrators and three groups with a total of 30 students were conducted between April 21-April 30, 2004 at four sites.

Findings included the following:

Faculty Themes

Areas of Faculty Consensus

Student Themes

Areas of Student Consensus

Recommendations:

Rutgers University DLI-II Faculty and Student Focus Group Report

Introduction

This report summarizes the results of eight focus groups conducted April 21-April 30, 2004. Five groups were composed of faculty and administrative staff and three were student groups. These focus groups were designed to help the RU Libraries plan their strategic directions for the next five years. All groups were lively and forthcoming. There was a high level of interaction among the participants with all contributing thoughtfully and openly. Focus group responses were captured by one note-taker per session and were also audio taped with all participants' permission. Marianne Gaunt, University Librarian, developed focus group questions in consultation with Dan O'Connor and Marie L. Radford. Marianne Gaunt was present for one focus group as an observer.

It is important to note that across all faculty and student groups, participants consistently expressed highly positive attitudes toward the RU Libraries and librarians. Faculty attending the focus groups were ethnically diverse, represented a broad spectrum of disciplines, academic ranks, and years of service to Rutgers. They repeatedly voiced pride in, praise for, and enthusiastic support for the Libraries. For example, when asked to describe the ideal virtual library, one faculty participant said: "Not too different from what we have now."

Student participants were also ethnically diverse, with a broad range of academic majors and levels (undergraduate and graduate). They regard the library as an important place on campus to get additional information for their course assignments and to study. Most students had some library use instruction and found it quite valuable. They noted that the librarians were helpful when asked for assistance and that the library was an important element of their education.

This report provides the results from the five faculty focus groups first, followed by the results of the three student groups. Appendices A and B contain complete focus group outlines.

Faculty Focus Group Description

Total Number of Focus Groups: 5
Dates: April 21-April 30, 2004
Participants: 40 total.
Gender: 18 female, 22 male.
Ethnicity: 32 Caucasian, 4 African American, 2 Asian, 2 Hispanic.
Locations: Alexander Library, New Brunswick; Dana Library, Newark (2 groups); Robeson Library, Camden, and the Library of Science and Medicine, Busch Campus.
Departments/Facilities Represented: Criminal Justice, Industrial & Systems Engineering, Cell Biology & Neuroscience, Pharmacy, Economics, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Modern Languages, Nursing, Visual & Performing Arts, English, Computer Science, Law, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Biology, Business, Mathematics, Political Science, Chemistry, Social Work, Geology, Physics, SCILS, Information Science, Cellular & Biochemical Toxicology, Literacy Education, History, Food Science, Faculty Development & Assessment Program, Rutgers University Press.
Facilitators: Dan O'Connor, Bill Liepold, Joe Lopez, Marie L. Radford (2 groups).

Faculty Focus Group Questions

Focus group questions centered on three topics and seven subtopics (see Appendix A for the complete focus group outline):

Topic 1: The Library as a source of information and service.
1.1 Where do you get information for your research, grants or teaching?
1.2 How do you keep up with identifying and learning to use the tools and resources in your discipline?
1.3 Describe an ideal virtual library that put the information sources, tools, and services you need for your work at your fingertips?
Topic 2: The Library as a physical place.
2.1 How do you use the library now?
2.2 Describe your ideal physical library; for example, more rooms for collaborative work; expanded computer labs; wireless capability; meeting and program spaces, cafes, scanning services?
Topic 3: Libraries' Support for Instruction
3.1 How do your students get the information they need to complete your course? For example, do you make everything available through your course website; create a course pack; seek library instruction, etc.
3.2 What kind of library support would enhance student learning?

Faculty Focus Group Results

Focus group data were analyzed qualitatively with like answers grouped together. As perhaps expected, and as seen in the grouping of responses below, some topics elicited more consensus than others. Several general themes developed that continued to emerge throughout the focus group discussions regardless of the questions that were asked.

General Themes for Faculty

Results for Faculty Topic 1: The Library as a source of information and service.

1.1 Where do you get information for your research, grants or teaching?

Consensus across all 5 groups:

Consensus across 3 groups:

Consensus across 2 groups:

Additional responses from one or two participants within one group:

1.2 How do you keep up with identifying and learning to use the tools and resources in your discipline?

Consensus across 5 or 4 groups: None

Consensus across 3 groups:

Consensus across 2 groups:

Additional responses from one or two participants within one group:

1.3 Describe an ideal virtual library that put the information sources, tools, and services you need for your work at your fingertips?

Consensus across 5 groups:

Consensus across 2 groups:

Additional responses from one or two participants within one group:

Results for Faculty Topic 2: The Library as a physical place.

2.1 How do you use the library now?

Consensus across 5 groups:

Consensus across 2 groups:

Additional responses from one or two participants within one group:

2.2 Describe your ideal physical library; for example, more rooms for collaborative work; expanded computer labs; wireless capability; meeting and program spaces, cafes, scanning services?

Consensus across 5 groups: None

Consensus across 4 groups:

Consensus across 2 groups:

Results for Faculty Topic 3: Libraries' Support for Instruction

3.1 How do your students get the information they need to complete your course? For example, do you make everything available through your course website; create a course pack; seek library instruction, etc.

Consensus across 5 groups: None

Consensus across 4 groups:

Consensus across 2 groups:

Additional responses from one or two participants within one group:

3.2 What kind of library support would enhance student learning?

Consensus across 5 or groups: None

Consensus across 4 groups:

Additional responses from one or two participants within one group:

Faculty Focus Group Recommendations

The results of the five faculty focus groups have much to offer by way of implications for the strategic planning process. These results lead to specific recommendations.

Student Focus Group Description

Total Number of Focus Groups: 3
Dates: April 21-April 30, 2004
Participants: 30 total.
Gender: 15 female, 15 male.
Ethnicity: 16 Caucasian, 10 African American, 3 Asian, 1 Hispanic,
Locations: Alexander Library, New Brunswick; Dana Library, Newark; Robeson Library, Camden.
Student Composition: Students came from all years of study from first-year through seniors plus graduate students. In all, there were 24 undergraduates and 6 graduate students. One student had a disability and mentioned this during the interview.
Major Represented: Political Science; English; Physical Therapy/Philosophy; Nursing; Pre-Med/Biology/ Electrical Engineering; Marketing/Psychology; Criminal Justice/Public Administration; Finance; Jazz History; Criminal Justice/Sociology; Psychology; Business (or pre-Business); Urban Studies; E-commerce; Accounting; Biology; Sociology; Psychology/Anthropology; Library and Information Science; Art History; Labor Relations.
Facilitators: Marie L. Radford (2 groups); Dan O'Connor (1 group).
Recorders: Julie Still; Jeris Cassel; Tom Glynn; Mary Beth Weber.

Student Focus Group Questions

Student focus group questions centered on five topics (see Appendix B for "Focus Group Outline and Questions for the Libraries' Strategic Plan: Students," item 5):

Topic 1: In a typical semester, describe how you use the Libraries-both physically and virtually.

Topic 2: Do any of your instructors make assignments that require that you find information resources above and beyond your textbooks or the assigned readings? If so, where do you go to get your information-research with library print collections and databases, Google, friends?

Topic 3: Have any of your instructors ever taken you to the libraries for an instruction session with a librarian or invited a librarian to your class? If so, was it very useful to your work? If you could have designed that assistance differently, what would you have changed?

Topic 4: If you wanted to improve the environment in the Libraries, what would you suggest and why?

Topic 5: If the Libraries could do one new thing or change something they now do (a collection, a service, or anything) to make your work as a student easier and more effective, what would it be?

Student Focus Group Results

Students addressed specific concerns during the various focus group sessions and they indicated that the library was an important element of their education. They pointed to the need to make the library more compatible with student needs by circulating laptops within the library building; allowing for quiet study areas; expanding the wireless network and allow printing from wireless laptops; create a café offering coffee, etc.; and, allow for specific instruction on how to use library databases and other resources. There was not a core consensus among the students but there were several areas where it would be expected that student participates would agree on the following general themes:

General Student Themes

Results for Student Topic 1: In a typical semester, describe how you use the Libraries-both physically and virtually.

There was general consensus that the library was a valuable resource for students: both the physical library and the online, virtual library. This consensus included:

Results for Student Topic 2: Do any of your instructors make assignments that require that you find information resources above and beyond your textbooks or the assigned readings? If so, where do you go to get your information-research with library print collections and databases, Google, friends?

Results for Student Topic 3: Have any of your instructors ever taken you to the libraries for an instruction session with a librarian or invited a librarian to your class? If so, was it very useful to your work? If you could have designed that assistance differently, what would you have changed?

Results for Student Topic 4: If you wanted to improve the environment in the Libraries, what would you suggest and why?

Results for Student Topic 5: If the Libraries could do one new thing or change something they now do (a collection, a service, or anything) to make your work as a student easier and more effective, what would it be?

Student Focus Group Recommendations

The three student focus groups are not as productive in leading to strategic planning initiatives as the faculty focus groups were. This is understandable since the students tended to address immediate, specific concerns. Nonetheless, the students did provide valuable clues on their needs:

Conclusion

Much valuable information has been gained by conducting these focus groups, which will be important in the strategic planning process of the Rutgers University Libraries. In addition, it should be noted that faculty and students demonstrated considerable interest and support for the libraries in taking time from their work and studies (during perhaps the busiest time of the semester) to enthusiastically participate in these groups.

APPENDIX A

Focus Group Outline and Questions for the Libraries' Strategic Plan

Faculty

1. Introduce yourself and do housekeeping-- food and drink available; help yourself over the course of the lunch discussion; eat and participate in the discussion

2. Ask members to introduce themselves

3. Purpose of the meeting

The purpose of this focus group is to help the Libraries plan their strategic directions for the next five years. There is no immediate pressure to change what they are doing because they still enjoy a reputation for service quality. But we all know that new information technologies, changes in the way faculty teach and do research, and new university collaborations, priorities and programs should impact how the Libraries shape their agenda regarding collections, services and facilities. As a result, we want to explore three areas with you in the next 90 minutes allocated to this session: the Library as a source of information and service, the library as a physical place, and library support for instruction.

4. Recorders- will be taking notes to be used in a summary report. There are a total of seven focus group meetings across the three campuses; some are with faculty, others with students. The reports will not ascribe any comments to particular individuals.

Topic 1: The Library as a source of information and service.

There are many sources of information both within the Libraries and outside the Libraries that can be useful to your work. As the Libraries plan for future collections and services, these need to be designed to make your work (teaching, research and service) easier. This could include making information more easy to locate and use, exploring ways to help you keep up with new tools in your disciplines, and examining areas for collection expansion, such as archives, media and data.

4 Where do you get information for your research, grants or teaching?

5 How do you keep up with identifying and learning to use the tools and resources in your discipline?

6 Describe an ideal virtual library that put the information sources, tools, and services you need for your work at your fingertips?

Topic 2: The Library as a physical place.

Library space has been reconfigured over the last ten years primarily to provide space for public access computers and electronic information. As we look to the next five years, we are interested in how the use of the physical library might change and how best to accommodate changing use patterns.

7 How do you use the library now?

8 Describe your ideal physical library; for example, more rooms for collaborative work; expanded computer labs; wireless capability; meeting and program spaces, cafes, scanning services?

Topic 3: Libraries' Support for Instruction

The Middle States Association's new standards for excellence lists information literacy as a learning outcome that institutions will need to assess. As the Libraries seek to support the curriculum and the way faculty teach, many options are open for how the libraries can support instruction and contribute towards the Middle States goals.

9 How do your students get the information they need to complete your course? For example, do you make everything available through your course website; create a course pack; seek library instruction, etc.

10 What kind of library support would enhance student learning?

APPENDIX B

Focus Group Outline and Questions for the Libraries' Strategic Plan

Students

1. Introduce yourself and do housekeeping-- food and drink available; help yourself over the course of the lunch discussion; eat and participate in the discussion

2. Ask members to introduce themselves

3. Purpose of the meeting:

The purpose of this focus group is to help the Libraries plan their strategic directions for the next five years. There is no immediate pressure to change what they are doing, but we all know that new information technologies, changes in the way faculty teach, and the university's new interests and directions, should have an impact on how the Libraries shape their agenda. I will be asking you six [sic] questions to help us understand the way you use the libraries now and what might be of interest to you in the future. The more the Libraries know about he way students work and study, the easier it will be to build collections and design services and spaces to meet your needs.

4. Recorders- will be taking notes to be used in a summary report. There are a total of seven focus group meetings across the three campuses; some are with faculty, others with students. The reports will not ascribe any comments to particular individuals.

5. Questions for Students

  1. In a typical semester, describe how you use the Libraries-both physically and virtually.
  2. Do any of your instructors make assignments that require that you find information resources above and beyond your textbooks or the assigned readings? If so, where do you go to get your information-research with library print collections and databases, Google, friends?
  3. Have any of your instructors ever taken you to the libraries for an instruction session with a librarian or invited a librarian to your class? If so, was it very useful to your work? If you could have designed that assistance differently, what would you have changed?
  4. If you wanted to improve the environment in the Libraries, what would you suggest and why?
  5. If the Libraries could do one new thing or change something they now do (a collection, a service, or anything) to make your work as a student easier and more effective, what would it be?

4/20/04



 
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