Best Reference Service Ever!

February 4th, 2010

Librarians from UW-Madison are gratified with the results of a recent evaluation of the reference services provided in libraries across the campus. Last spring twenty libraries surveyed their users to evaluate the quality of the help received at reference desks. The results placed UW Madison libraries ahead of all their peers who have taken part in this nationwide survey.

As part of the Wisconsin Ohio Reference Evaluation Program (WOREP), over four hundred library users completed surveys, and those results were sent to Kent State University for analysis. Designed to gauge the success of interactions at library reference desks, WOREP found Madison’s user satisfaction rate to be the best of their peers from similar sized universities around the country. Calling the score an “impressive accomplishment,” Kent State’s Carolyn Radcliffe said Wisconsin’s libraries “should be proud of their work.” In addition to the high satisfaction rate, 97% of users said they learned something about the library.

Steve Baumgart, Chair of the Libraries’ Reference Assessment Working Group, calls these numbers extremely rewarding. He notes, “Campus librarians work hard to help students, faculty, and staff navigate an increasingly complex information environment, so it’s great to see those efforts translated into a high level of satisfaction.” The fact that almost 92% of patrons took the time to complete and submit the thirty-question survey is its own testament to the good will users have for campus libraries.

The survey is part of an ongoing effort to measure library performance and user needs. “We want to be responsive to the needs of our patrons as we chart a course for the future, and these evaluations will help us shape our services going forward,” Baumgart added. The libraries continually strive to improve reference service. In fact, the campus’ “Ask a Librarian” service currently extends reference services beyond the traditional reference desk with options that include instant messaging and live chat.

Baumgart also noted that one of the developers of the WOREP evaluation program was Charles Bunge, emeritus faculty at the UW’s School of Library and Information Studies. One of the benefits to the library community on this campus is our relationship with our library school. “Leveraging relationships with scholars to guide our practice will help maintain high levels of user satisfaction for years to come,” he concluded.

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