IALS Library Reader Satisfaction Survey

2018 - Summary results and response

You said, we did:

In order to find out how satisfied readers are with the IALS Library’s collections and information services and to help us continue to improve the Library, a survey of library users was carried out between Monday 26th February and Sunday 4th March 2018.

Highlights in brief

  • The top rating was again for helpfulness of library staff at 98% (up 1% on the 2017 rating).
  • The overall satisfaction rate remained the same at 96%.
  • This year we had 5 satisfaction ratings above 90% which were for our range of electronic journals and databases, range of print journals and research training sessions; as well as for the helpfulness of library staff and overall satisfaction.
  • We had 10 satisfaction ratings above 80%. These included, our range of books, opening times and closing times, ease of access to e-resources, ease of use of library catalogue, study facilities, study environment - quietness, quality of computing facilities, availability of PC’s and availability of photocopiers.
  • Some positive comments made a number of times:
    • “Perfect place to study seriously.” (x33)
    • “Wonderfully helpful staff who are invariably welcoming to all users.” (x23)
    • “Excellent collection – the best in London.” (x18)
    • “I love IALS – it is a great library.” (x14)

Library actions: you said, we did

  • Refurbished Library
    The survey comments about wanting a refurbished Library (e.g. the need for improved temperature control, less noise from the busy roads outside, more seating in the reading rooms, better chairs and desks with integrated power and data points, more comprehensive WiFi provision, new bookable group study rooms, and more lockable research carrels) have been anticipated by the IALS Library Management Team in their IALS Refurbishment Business Plan. We are therefore pleased to announce that a more detailed refurbishment plan, assembled by architects Burwell Deakins, has recently been approved by the University’s Board of Trustees. As a result, the University of London is now committed to a £11.5 million refurbishment of the IALS building and library which will start in July 2018.

    This major refurbishment project will replace the building infrastructure with new heating, cooling, ventilation, cabling and WiFi. IALS Library will be completely refurbished and re-designed. We will be able to offer a new 2nd floor entrance looking out on to Russell Square, 50 additional study desks, bookable group study and training rooms, a special needs room, 10 additional lockable library research carrels, new desk and chair furniture throughout the library, more control over our reading room heating and cooling, secondary glazing to reduce the noise from the busy roads outside, more self-issue laptops and improved IT services. This exciting project should take around two years to complete, but IALS Library will remain open throughout the works with a temporary entrance.

    Once available, we will arrange for examples of the proposed new library study desk and adjustable chair to be available in the Library for testing and comment by readers.

  • Book suggestions
    The individual suggestions about improving areas of our research collections have been passed to Liz Murray, Information Resources Manager, who will act on them.

  • Improved library catalogue
    A project already in progress will help us to address the comments about ease of use of the library catalogue. We are working to introduce a new discovery platform later this year which will improve access to our many electronic resources and enable article-searching from our e-resources subscriptions.

  • Opening and closing times
    A further investment in library opening hours two years ago helped us to achieve an improved satisfaction rating for our closing times this year. For most of the year we are open 7 days a week. From October to June we are open 9.00am to 11.00pm, Monday to Friday; 10.00am to 8.30pm on Saturdays; and 12.30pm to 8.30pm on Sundays. These extended opening hours are longer than any other library within the central University. We had 5 adverse comments this year about our later opening time on Sundays. Although this type of comment has been in decline in recent years, we will continue to monitor the opening time rating closely.

  • Cost of printing
    The lowest satisfaction rating of 58.6% was for the cost of public photocopying/printing. However on investigation it was found that the IALS charge of 5p per A4 copied sheet was very comparable to the current charges at the University of London colleges which have the benefit of much larger economies of scale.

  • Eating and drinking in the Library
    There were 3 requests for us to allow the consumption of hot drinks within the Library. As the nationally-funded legal research library which preserves and makes available often unique legal materials for use by to its users, we believe our existing regulations which only allow cold water to be drunk inside the library are sufficient. This view is in line with the regulations of all other research libraries within the School of Advanced Study and with the Bodleian Law Library, Oxford and the Squire Law Library, Cambridge. We would encourage readers to use the large café space on the ground floor of IALS to eat and drink and to make use of the two self-service food and drink machines that are available to readers on floor L1.

  • Toilets
    We are glad to report no negative comments about the general cleanliness of the public toilets since extra cleaning sessions were provided.

Summary results of the 2018 reader satisfaction survey

The following full results of the survey contain responses across all reader categories to 20 specific questions all starting with the text: "Do you feel the Library generally meets your needs in terms of.". By ticking category 3 or category 4 on the 4-point scale we have assumed that the respondents needs were either often satisfied (3) or usually satisfied (4).

Question % of respondents who ticked 3 or 4
  2017 2018
Range of books? 89.7% 86.5%
Sufficient copies of core LLM textbooks? 75.3% 74.8%
Range of print journals? 94.2% 95.2%
Range of electronic journals and databases? 90.4% 94.4%
Ease of access to e-resources? n/a 88.7%
Ease of use of library catalogue? 81.9% 84.7%
Quality of computing facilities? 90.7% 86.7%
Availability of PCs? 87.9% 86.8%
Photocopiers? 91.6% 84.7%
Printing? 88.6% 79.5%
Cost of photocopying / printing? 61.2% 58.6% (lowest)
Helpfulness of library staff? 97.2% 98% (highest)
Electronic training sessions? 96% 93.9%
Study facilities? 83.8% 80%
Study environment - noise? 90.6% 88.3%
Study environment - heating? 71.7% 67.6%
Opening times? 87.9% 83.7%
Closing times? 83.2% 83.5%
More materials in the library or more lending?    
- in library 75.7% 64%
- more lending 24.3% 36%
Overall, how satisfied? 96.3% 96%

Many thanks for your help with this survey. 

2018 - Detailed results and report

A survey of readers was carried out between Monday 26th February and Sunday 4th March 2018 in order to find out how satisfied readers are with the Library’s collections and information services. The original two-page survey questionnaire created in 2003 was used, as it has been every year since, to ensure consistent quality measurements. This year, an additional question on ease of access to electronic resources was introduced and we look forward to building up useful data on this question over the coming years. A prominent weblink to the survey questionnaire was placed on the IALS homepage, inviting returns. This weblink and encouragement to complete the questionnaire was also emailed to all of our current library members. Posters advertising the survey were put up throughout the Library for the whole of the survey week and survey questionnaires were continually available at the Library entrance, on the Issue & Enquiry Desk and on the IALS website. Members of the Academic Services team placed a copy on every seat in the Library to encourage returns. A prize draw (£50 worth of book vouchers) was also offered to encourage reader participation.

The survey asked readers to rate how the Library generally meets their needs in terms of books, journals, electronic databases, library catalogue, access to e-resources, computers, photocopiers, printing, helpfulness of staff, training sessions, study facilities, study environment and opening and closing times. Respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction on a 4-point scale. The definitions of each category were as follows:

  • 1 = rarely satisfied
  • 2 = sometimes satisfied
  • 3 = often satisfied
  • 4 = usually satisfied

In total 151 completed survey forms were returned, of which 95 were from LLM students or other postgraduate taught course students, 26 from academic and research staff, 21 from postgraduate research degree students, and 9 from legal practitioners and private scholars. Respondents did not always answer every question. The number of responses was lower than usual this year, which may have been caused by the bad snowy weather and difficult travelling conditions during the survey week.

Highlights of the Survey

The overall satisfaction rate (those who indicated they were either often or usually satisfied) was 96%, virtually the same as last year’s mark of 96.3% (which followed on from three years of continuous slight improvements) and is consistent with our excellent mid-nineties score for this question virtually every year since the survey began. IALS Library is very pleased to have established a definite trend of overall reader satisfaction. Indeed, after last year’s excellent results, we are pleased to note only a very marginal decrease in some ratings and some improved ratings.

As per the last seven years, the top rating was for helpfulness of the staff, at 98%, and the comments section is full of praise for our friendly and helpful librarians.

Whilst last year eight questions received plus 90% ratings, this year only five received a plus 90% rating. However, to put this in context, all of the three questions which dropped to below 90% were under 92% last year, all attained ratings in the middle to high 80%, and none dropped more than 7%. These individual ratings will be addressed in turn below. In addition to helpfulness of library staff and overall satisfaction, the other plus 90% ratings were for range of journals at 95.2%, range of electronic journals and databases at 94.4% and electronic training sessions at 93.9%.

The Library is very pleased to see that rating for range of print journals has retained a plus 90% rating for four consecutive years now, having dipped below for the previous few years. This rating has improved even on last year’s excellent result. This highlights that our attempts to maintain a relevant and complete collection has been successful, despite our collections budget not keeping up with average law book inflation.

As the national research library for law our priority is to collect and make available the national research collection of printed law books and serials, however we also endeavour to make as much material as possible available digitally to our members. We were therefore very pleased to see that the rating for range of electronic journals and databases, having dipped below 90% two years ago, has remained above 90% for the second year running, and again shown a good improvement on last year, up to 94.4% from 90.4%. We feel this indicates that the library, whilst having to make difficult decisions about reducing resources in these difficult economic times, has chosen which resources to cut prudently, and to no detrimental effect to our readers.

The fact that the rating for our electronic training sessions has remained above 90% for the eleventh year running is particularly gratifying. We have continued to put a great deal of effort into the expansion and development of these sessions, and have started offering a wider range of training throughout the year as a direct result of feedback from students as to what sort of training they would like the library to provide. This result clearly shows that researchers and students continue to view our annual programme of research training skills sessions as a major value-added service.

Ratings above 80% were received for ease of access to e-resources (88.7%), study environment – quietness (88.3%), availability of PCs (86.8%), quality of computing facilities (86.7%), range of books (86.5%), ease of use of library catalogue (84.7%), availability of photocopiers (84.7%), opening times (83.7%), closing times (83.5%) and study facilities (80%).

We decided to include the question on ease of access to e-resources in light of negative feedback on this issue received by the School of Advanced Study (SAS) generally, as we wanted to ascertain how much of an issue this was for students at IALS in particular. We find the rating of 88.7% to be reassuringly high (indeed, when this result is isolated to show only responses from IALS students, the result is 100%). It will be interesting to monitor this over future years.

We were disappointed to see the rating for study environment – quietness dip slightly to 88.3% having last year achieved a plus 90% mark for the first time since the inception of the survey. However, this still reflects our second ever highest mark in this category, and as such is testament to the redoubled efforts of staff to monitor noise in the reading rooms with regular checks, taking action when necessary to promote a silent study environment. This high rating is born out in the comments section of the survey where we received much praise for the silent and studious atmosphere of the library, and where complaints about noise have tended to focus on disturbance from the road outside. Hopefully, the planned installation of secondary glazing as part of the refurbishment project will improve this rating in future.

The rating for availability of PCs has remained virtually unchanged from last year at 86.8%. An increasing number of students are bringing their own computers into the library so demand may have peaked. It is possible that this slightly lower rating has more to do with students ‘reserving’ computer desks within the library rather than all PCs being actively in use. IALS library will continue to monitor this.

Having achieved a plus 90% rating for the first time in several years last year, it is disappointing to see the rating for quality of computing facilities drop back slightly to 86.7%. Our Information Systems team have been working hard over the past couple of year to ensure the smooth transition to the new website, having previously streamlined the Wi-Fi log on process, simplified network printing, and rolled out new flat screen PCs on the Library concourse. Of the readers who gave us low ratings for this category, a few complained about the Wifi connection in separate sections of the survey, which may help explain the drop. We know anecdotally that students with an eduroam Wifi account can pick up a faint signal from the Institute of Education next door, and often confuse this with our own robust in-house Wifi connection. However this eduroam Wifi signal became even fainter in the last month as the Institute of Education began signal blocking. This may explain the recent complaints. IALS librarians will continue to advertise and provide assistance with the IALS wireless networks and we can confirm that a new improved Wifi system will be introduced as part of the IALS refurbishment.

It is disappointing to see our rating for range of books remain under 90% for a fourth year, as the Library remains committed to maintaining a comprehensive and up-to-date legal research collection, protecting our book purchasing budget and adding significantly to the collection. Indeed, the comments section of the survey belies this lower rating, being full of praise for our extensive collection. In mitigation, when these figures are studied by level of responder, we can see that the vast majority of lower ratings were given by LLM students who make less use of our collection. Ratings from PhD researchers and academics are pleasingly higher. We should also note that for several years the Library’s book budget has not kept pace with average law book inflation as the Library’s overall budget has been flat-funded. We shall continue to monitor this rating closely and are pleased to report that for next year, at least, our book budget has been increased to cover for average law book inflation.

The rating for ease of use of library catalogue (which fell to 77.9% in 2014), has remained in the mid-to-low 80s for a fourth year. However, with an improved rating from last year (up to 84.7% from 81.9%) we are no longer seeing a declining trend. As the Library catalogue has not changed in the past few years, this general decline in marks may be caused by the fact that reader expectations of what a catalogue can offer is increasing. The comments section of the survey once again saw some people expressing an expectation to see individual journal articles listed, which may be because of the introduction of discovery platform searching to article level elsewhere (e.g. at SOAS Library). Following on from similar comments last year, the reference team introduced training on the use of the catalogue into induction sessions at the start of the academic year in an effort to obviate further confusion on the part of our users, which may be responsible for the improved rating this year. We will also encourage the SHL managers of our Sierra Library Management system to continue to investigate and implement the article level searching and cross-searching modules of the new system in collaboration with the system providers Innovative Interfaces Inc.

Our rating for availability of photocopiers has puzzlingly dropped below 90%, as anecdotal evidence from staff (and copying statistics pulled from the machines back this up) suggests that they are rarely all in use at the same time. As our current machines are nearing the end of their life-cycle, it may be that students are not notifying staff of issues with certain copiers leading them to be out of action for longer than necessary, or it may be that students are used to seeing a greater number of machines available for use. Hopefully, the introduction of brand new MFD devices during the refurbishment will help mitigate this – IALS will monitor the use of existing devices carefully to try and ensure maximum availability.

Our rating for opening times has dipped slightly again following last year’s slight rise, and still falls short of the plus 90% rating received three years ago following on from our extended opening hours. Perhaps this is inevitable in an era of 24/7 university library facilities. Comments once again focused on earlier opening times at the weekend, particularly on a Sunday. IALS has extended the opening hours of the library more than once over the past few years in order to meet student need, and the management committee will continue to monitor the situation. By contrast, the rating for closing times seems to have stabilised (even showing a slight improvement) indicating that students are happy with our access arrangements in the evenings.

We were pleased to see that our rating for study facilities remained over 80% this year, although has still shown a decline, and falls short of the 90% plus rating it received in 2009. Last year, the comments section of the survey contained a higher than usual amount of comments specifically complaining about the comfort of the desks and chairs in the library and this has been repeated this year. This underlines how important the upcoming refurbishment of the building is, and we fully expect this rating to improve once the tired and outdated library furniture is upgraded to something more modern and comfortable.

Ratings of above 70% were received for availability of printers (79.5%) and sufficient copies of LLM core textbooks (74.8%).

The rating for availability of printers has dropped significantly from last year when it received a rating of 88.6%. This is most likely due to the age of the machines coupled with the fact that printing remains popular whilst photocopying becomes less so. It is imagined that the introduction of new MFD devices during the refurbishment (as noted above) will help solve this issue, as all the new machines will be capable of copying and printing, effectively increasing our available printing machines.

A rating of 74.8% was received for sufficient copies of LLM textbooks, which despite being very slightly down on last year is still its second highest rating since 2013. As noted in previous years, there has been increased LLM traffic through the Library as some of the colleges are expanding their LLM intake, and competition for LLM textbooks is affected in the same way as competition for space. As a result of this, the Library has been carefully monitoring circulation and usage of core texts, purchasing additional copies of heavily used material and placing copies of key items into the short loan collection, and it is gratifying to see that these additional steps have resulted in a virtually unchanged satisfaction rating in this area. To improve matters further, we will continue to encourage lecturers to provide us with their LLM course reading lists and investigate the possibility of meeting certain teaching material requirements through an increased use of e-books. For example recently we have subscribed to Brill Online, the Oxford Scholarship Online service, Cambridge Core Online law eBooks and Edward Elgar eBooks which contain many hundreds of legal textbooks. Hopefully a combination of such measures, and the LLM librarian remaining responsive to which items are in heavy use and ordering additional copies or placing items in the Short Loan teaching collection will see this rating continue to improve.

The rating for heating has once again dipped below 70%, as per 2016 and 2013, however at 67.6% it is roughly average for the past six years, and is still well above the very disappointing 45.2% score in 2012. As noted above, the survey week took place during a spell of unusually bad and wintry weather, which may well have had an effect on this rating. Indeed, despite the very cold outside temperatures, the comments section is still (as per previous years) strewn with complaints about the excessive heat, with some respondents stating that they no longer use IALS as a base because of this very issue. However, as always, this was counterbalanced with some respondents praising the heating levels within the library, and more respondents that usual stating that they were too cold. As per above, it is hoped that the proposed forthcoming refurbishment will give us a much greater level of control over heating in the building. In the meantime, library staff will continue to monitor heat in the reading rooms as part of their regular patrols, and open or close windows accordingly.

The lowest rating (and the only rating of below 60%) was received for cost of copying, scanning and printing at 58.6%, down a few points from last year. However, to put this in context, between 2010 and 2016 this question had consistently scored between 52% and 56.4%. This general trend of improvement may be due to the increasing amount of information available directly for download from our various databases, which is in line with our excellent rating for provision of e-journals and databases this year. The cost of photocopying at IALS Library was reduced on three separate occasions some years ago and has not been increased since then. It now stands at 5 pence per copy, which compares favourably with similar libraries and is broadly in line with other University of London libraries. When the new machines were introduced three and a half years ago, the decision was taken to introduce self-service scanning and charge for it, which has received a few unfavourable comments in previous years and this year is no exception. IALS Library will naturally review print/copy/scanning charges once the new MFDs are introduced during the refurbishment.

In order to update its information, the Library has again enquired about prices at other libraries: most University of London colleges (e.g. UCL, SOAS and KCL) still charge 5 pence per A4 copy, with extra charges for larger or colour copying. LSE recently reduced its price to 3.5 pence per side of A4 for black and white copies, but this is for students only – external visitors are charged 4 pence per side – and they charge 7 pence for A3 copies and 10 pence per side for A4 colour copies. QMUL also charge 4 pence and 8 pence per side for A4 and A3 respectively, with a small reduction for duplex. SOAS and UCL charge 5 pence per page, however it should be noted that the 5p charge is regardless of whether it is single or double sided. KCL allocates free printing credit to its students, although it is unclear how much. UCL allocate their students £12 of free copy credit, QMUL allocate all students £4 of free copy credit, and SOAS allocate postgraduate students £12.50 of free copy credit.

Senate House Library increased its charges to 6p per copy some years ago. The Bodleian Law Library (University of Oxford) has recently decreased its fees from 7 pence to 6 pence per copy (after having increased the cost from 5 pence), although double sided is available for 9p; and the Squire Law Library (University of Cambridge) offer one coin operated machine which provides an A4 copy for 5 pence. In terms of scanning, the situation is very varied. LSE provide free scanning for their own students, but have very limited access to scanners – students must wait for a special computer to be free which has scanning software attached to it.  UCL, KCL and SOAS and the Squire offer free scanning through their multi-functional devices, but only to their own registered students. QMUL offer free scanning to USB from all library copiers. Senate House Library offer a small reduction in charge for scanning – 5p rather than 6p - and the Bodleian Law Library charges a reduced rate of 2p per scan. It should be noted that scanning remains free for our own IALS research students.

Finally, given the choice, the majority of all respondents wanted more books available in the library (64%) rather than more lending outside the library (36%).

Whilst this is slightly down on last year’s record breaking 75.7% of people in favour of materials in the library, it is in keeping with our results in this area every year since the survey’s inception. It is gratifying to see that our primary objective of being a national resource reference library is supported by the majority of our users, and may once again point to the prevalence of materials available electronically to our readers..

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Comments and suggestions

The comments section of the questionnaire provided the usual mix of compliments and suggestions and can be read in a separate report. It should be noted that, in keeping with the low rating, and as per previous years, the negative comments are dominated by complaints about the temperature in the reading rooms, with this issue attracting 15 negative comments. It is interesting to note, however, that of these 15 negative comments, 9 were complaining about overheating, and 6 were complaining about being too cold. The usual complaints about the cost of copying, printing and scanning have been addressed above. As in previous years, there were some requests for extended borrowing rights. However, this can be comfortably offset against the large majority of our users across all user types who prefer greater availability of materials in the library as opposed to longer loan privileges. It is again interesting to note that whilst we received 13 negative comments as to our loan periods, we received 17 comments commending our good availability of books.

Whilst we received a total of 5 negative comments related to our opening hours, with requests for 24/7 opening and longer weekend hours, it should be noted that this type of comment has been on the decline in recent years (6 such comments in 2017, 15 in 2016 and 2015, 24 in 2014). Hopefully this trend will continue. As was noted for the first time last year, and tying in with the desire for longer opening hours is a new issue of a few people wanting greater facilities for eating and drinking at the IALS. 3 comments specifically asked for somewhere to be able to prepare and consume hot food (2 last year), and a further 3 asking the library to allow coffee if in a lidded container. It may be possible in the future to consider extending the café hours or providing a hot drinks machine again for out-of-hours use in the short term. Hopefully, once we have been refurbished, there will be a wider variety of spaces in the building for students to consume coffee and have a meaningful break from studying.

New this year were a few comments about not being allowed to sit in empty carrels, with 3 people complaining how frustrating it is to be unable to locate a decent spot to study whilst the carrel desks are sitting empty. This indicates once again that we are reaching maximum capacity. The addition of 50 study desks in the refurbishment should be a significant help with this issue, allowing us to cope with increased student numbers. The forthcoming refurbishment should hopefully also address the 5 negative comments we received regarding how uncomfortable our desks and chairs are, as better suited furniture for the library has been included in the project plans.

The 3 negative comments received regarding the Wifi connection in the library have been addressed above. The remainder of the less positive comments contain a wide variety of personal concerns, from requests for more books in individual subject areas to complaints about the high temperature of the water in the bathrooms, not being able to locate particular resources, being unhappy at having to pay a fine for the late return of a book, and a complaint about the nature of the survey itself. It should be noted that despite these negative comments, the vast majority of people were extremely complimentary about the IALS Library, its services, facilities and staff.

To conclude, the Library is very pleased and reassured that since its inception in 2003, we have received consistently very high ratings across almost all categories in our annual user survey, despite our regularly changing membership. We will continue to monitor the dip in some of the ratings in this survey, and all potential areas for improvement will be fully investigated.

Laura Griffiths
Assistant Librarian (Academic Services)
8th March 2018

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Any comments on this public report of the 2018 IALS Reader Satisfaction Survey should be emailed to Laura Griffiths, Assistant Librarian, Academic Services at Laura.Griffiths@sas.ac.uk .

Page last updated: 10th April 2018