IALS Library Reader Satisfaction Survey

2017 - 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 Tuesday 7th March and Tuesday 14th March 2017.

Highlights in brief

  • Almost every 2017 satisfaction rating has increased on 2016.
  • The top rating was again for helpfulness of library staff at 97%.
  • The overall satisfaction rate increased yet again to 96%.
  • This year we had 8 satisfaction ratings above 90% (there were 4 in 2016) which were for our electronic training sessions; range of journals; range of electronic journals and databases; quality of computing facilities; control of noise; and availability of photocopiers; as well as for the helpfulness of library staff and overall satisfaction.
  • Satisfaction ratings above 80% were received for our range of books, study facilities, closing times and ease of use of the library catalogue.
  • All the ratings from postgraduate research degree students increased this year.
  • Some positive comments made a number of times:
    • “The range of books is phenomenal.” (x14)
    • “The most positive aspect of IALS is its amazingly helpful library staff.” (x13)
    • “Overall, a great library.” (x9)
    • “I always find what I am looking for at IALS.” (x8)

Library actions: you said, we did

  • The many comments about wanting a refurbished library (e.g. the need for improved temperature control, more seating in the reading rooms, better chairs and desks with integrated power and data points, wider WiFi provision, new bookable group study rooms, and more lockable study rooms) have already been anticipated by the library management team in its current IALS Refurbishment Business Plan. This detailed plan is currently being discussed by the University of London’s Planning and Resources Group and the Library is lobbying hard for its approval by the University. Your recent comments will help strengthen our case for significant investment in the library environment.
  • The individual suggestions about improving areas of our research collections have been passed to Liz Murray, Information Resources Manager, who will act on them.
  • We have also included a more prominent link to our book suggestion form on the library catalogue pages to make it easier for users to make suggestions in future.
  • A project already in progress will help us to address the slightly lower rating for 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.
  • To help us improve patchy WiFi provision on some library floors, we are pleased to be able to say that there are interim plans by the University to increase the coverage of our current WiFi service as soon as possible by installing more wireless access points. In the longer term there are proposals in the IALS Refurbishment Business Case to install a completely new WiFi system across the Library.
  • It was gratifying to see the rating for control of noise has received a rating above 90% for the first time which shows that library staff’s efforts over the past year to monitor the noise levels in the reading rooms via regular checks and to take action to promote a quiet study environment were appreciated by library users.
  • As a result of the complaints about the noisy bleeping from the regular testing of our emergency Fire Exit lighting, we have asked for this noise to be switched off. The Emergency lighting will continue to operate as needed without the noise.
  • The lowest satisfaction rating of 61.2% 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.
  • There were a few requests for us to allow eating and drinking within the Library. However 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 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.
  • A further investment in library opening hours last year helped us to achieve far fewer adverse comments about our closing times with appreciation of our Saturday and Sunday library opening hours.
  • 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 2017 reader satisfaction survey

The following full results of the survey contain responses across all reader categories to 19 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
  2016 2017
Range of books? 86.7% 89.7%
Sufficient copies of core LLM textbooks? 68.9% 75.3%
Range of journals? 90.2% 94.2%
Range of electronic journals and databases? 86.1% 90.4%
Ease of use of library catalogue? 84.3% 81.9%
Quality of computing facilities? 88.9% 90.7%
Availability of PCs? 84% 87.9%
Photocopiers? 85.6% 91.6%
Printing? 81.3% 88.6%
Cost of photocopying / printing? 52.9% 61.2% (lowest)
Helpfulness of library staff? 97.3% 97.2% (highest)
Electronic training sessions? 92.1% 96%
Study facilities? 78.6% 83.8%
Study environment - noise? 85.7% 90.6%
Study environment - heating? 65.2% 71.7%
Opening times? 84.7% 87.9%
Closing times? 79.5% 83.2%
More materials in the library or more lending?    
- in library 59.8% 75.7%
- more lending 40.2% 24.3%
Overall, how satisfied? 95.3% 96.3%

Many thanks for your help with this survey. 

2017 - Detailed results and report

A survey of readers was carried out between Tuesday 7th March and Tuesday 14th March 2017 in order to find out how satisfied readers are with the Library’s collections and information services. The original two-page survey form created in 2003 was used, as it has been every year since, to ensure consistent quality measurements. Last year, an additional question was included, soliciting readers’ suggestions for improvements they would like to see in the Library during the forthcoming renovation programme, and this was included again this year. Posters advertising the survey were put up throughout the Library for the whole of the survey week and survey forms 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 and a prominent link to the survey was placed on the IALS homepage, inviting student returns. The form was also sent electronically through Millennium to all of our academic members. 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, 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 107 completed survey forms were returned, of which 69 were from LLM students or other postgraduate taught course students, 17 from academic and research staff, 19 from postgraduate research degree students, and 2 from legal practitioners and private scholars. The number of responses was lower than usual this year. Respondents did not always answer every question.

Highlights of the Survey

The overall satisfaction rate (those who indicated they were either often or usually satisfied) was 96.3% (95.3% in 2016). This is a slight improvement on last year, indeed this question has been showing slight improvements for the past three years running, and is consistent with our excellent mid-nineties score for this question virtually every year since the survey began. In fact, a slight improvement from last year was seen across almost all questions, which is particularly encouraging in light of the fact that our ratings last year saw a slight dip from the previous year’s excellent results – the current year’s return to form shows that we are not seeing a general downwards trend.

As per the last 6 years, the top rating was for helpfulness of the staff, at 97.2%. Whilst last year only 4 questions received plus 90% ratings (with 6 receiving them the year before) this year we were delighted to see 8 questions exceeding the 90% satisfied rating – a feat last achieved in 2009! In addition to helpfulness of library staff, the other plus 90% ratings were for overall satisfaction at 96.3%, electronic training sessions at 96%, range of journals at 94.2%, availability of photocopiers at 91.6%, quality of computing facilities at 90.7%, study environment – noise at 90.6% and range of electronic journals and databases at 90.4%. It is particularly gratifying to see the rating for study environment – noise achieve a plus 90% mark for the first time since the inception of the survey, as staff have been redoubling efforts to monitor noise in the reading rooms with regular checks, taking action when necessary to promote a silent study environment. This higher 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 for the first time ever, not one single complaint about reader-generated noise!

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 electronically to our members. We were therefore very pleased to see that the rating for range of electronic journals and databases, having dipped below 90% last year, is back above 90%. We feel this indicates that the library, whilst having to make difficult decisions about reducing resources in these strained 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 tenth year running is particularly gratifying as we have continued to put a great deal of effort into the expansion and development of these, 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.

Equally gratifying was to see the mark for quality of computing facilities achieve a plus 90% mark for the first time since 2009, as our Information Systems team have been working hard over the past 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. These activities are reflected in a similar improvement in our rating for the availability of PCs.

The Library is also very pleased to see that ratings for range of journals has retained a plus 90% rating for three consecutive years now, having dipped below for the previous few years. 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.

Ratings above 80% were received for range of books (89.7%), availability of printers (88.6%), availability of PCs (87.9%), opening times (87.9%), study facilities (83.8%), closing times (83.2%) and ease of use of library catalogue (81.9%).

It is disappointing to see our rating for range of books remain under 90% for a third year, having dipped below 90% for the first time since the survey’s inception a couple of years ago. This year’s rating was a marked improvement on last year’s however, and only fractionally below 90%. 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. We shall continue to monitor this rating closely.

Our ratings for availability of both photocopiers and printers have both shown significant improvement, very encouraging in light of increased footfall in the Library. As noted above, network printing has been simplified and new robust printers are available on the concourse, enabling more people to claim their print jobs more quickly.

Our rating for opening times has reversed last year’s slight dip, although still falls short of the plus 90% rating received 2 years ago following on from our extended opening hours. Perhaps this is inevitable in an era of 24/7 university library facilities. The management committee will continue to monitor the situation.

We were pleased to see a slight improvement in our rating for study facilities, which has edged back over 80% this year, although still falls well short of the 90% plus rating it received in 2009. The comments section of the survey contained a higher than usual amount of comments specifically complaining about the desks and chairs in the library, and how uncomfortable they are. This simply 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.

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 third year, and is still following a general declining trend in this rating. 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 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). The reference team will introduce training on the use of the catalogue into induction sessions at the start of the next academic year in an effort to obviate further confusion on the part of our users. 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.

Ratings of above 70% were received for sufficient copies of LLM core textbooks (75.3%) and study environment - heating (71.7%).

A rating of 75.3% was received for sufficient copies of LLM textbooks, its 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 suffering 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 an increased satisfaction rating in this area. To improve matters further, we continue to investigate the possibility of meeting certain teaching material requirements through an increased use of e-books, and have taken steps such as acquiring the Oxford Scholarship Online service which contains 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 improved slightly following a slight dip last year, but remains at a generally consistent with recent years at 71.7%, still well above the very disappointing 45.2% score in 2012. Whilst the comments section is, 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, this was counterbalanced with some respondents praising the heating levels within the library, and some respondents stating that they were too cold. As per above, it is hoped that the proposed forthcoming refurbishment will give us a 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 70%) was received for cost of copying, scanning and printing at 61.2%, still a marked improvement on last year’s rating of 52.9%. Indeed, this question had consistently scored between 52% and 56.4% for the last seven years running. This improvement may be due to the increasing amount of information available directly for download from our various databases, which is in line with our increased rating for provision of e-journals and databases this year. The cost of photocopying at IALS Library was reduced three times 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 but none this year.

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 for black and white copies, but charge 7 pence for A3 copies and 10 pence per side for A4 colour copies. QMUL also charge 4 pence and 8 pence for A4 and A3 respectively. SOAS charges 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 can copy an A4 sheet (i.e. duplex printing is free) 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 charge the same for scanning as they do for copying, 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 (75.7%) rather than more lending outside the library (24.3%).

Although in keeping with the year-on-year majority of readers who would rather have a law collection available to them on demand whenever they visit the Library, this is the highest ever proportion of readers in favour of materials onsite over increased borrowing rights. 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.

Top of page

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 for temperature, and as per previous years, the negative comments are dominated by complaints about over-heating, with this issue attracting 14 negative comments, most of which were quite strongly worded. The usual complaints about the cost of copying, printing and scanning have been addressed above. Although, as in previous years, there were some requests for extended borrowing rights, there were considerably fewer this year, as reflected by (and which can be comfortably offset against) the large majority of our users who prefer greater availability of materials in the library as opposed to longer loan privileges. In fact, whilst we received only 3 negative comments as to our loan periods/availability of core readings in the survey, we received 8 comments commending our good availability of books.

Whilst we received a total of 6 negative comments related to our opening hours, with requests for 24/7 opening and longer weekend hours, there were proportionally fewer (and in generally milder language) than in previous years. Tying in with the desire for longer opening hours is a new issue of people wanting greater facilities for eating and drinking at the IALS. 2 comments specifically asked for somewhere to be able to prepare and consume hot food, and a further 4 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.

New this year were requests for printers on the reading room levels of the library. It seems that students find it disruptive to have to go to level 4 to collect a print job. It is likely however that the added convenience of a printer on each level of the library would be offset by the disruption to our silent working environment that they caused. Indeed, whilst only 2 or 3 respondents made a request for more printers throughout the library, 19 respondents praised us for our studious working environment, with 8 of them specifically mentioning the silent atmosphere.

Also new this year were 2 comments relating specifically to a lack of soap in the ladies toilets, something which will be addressed with our facilities managers. Thankfully, since introducing additional cleaning of the reading room toilets, we received no negative comments about the cleanliness of the toilets as in previous years.

The majority of the remainder of the less positive comments were concerned with the state of the library furniture. The Library will be pressing for the forthcoming refurbishment project to include more appropriate furniture in its planning. It should be noted that despite these negative comments, the 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)
20th March 2017

Top of page

Any comments on this public report of the 2017 IALS Reader Satisfaction Survey should be emailed to Laura Griffiths, Assistant Librarian, Academic Services at Laura.Griffiths@sas.ac.uk .

Page last updated: 26th April 2017