Title: How Well Are We Tracking Our Reference Statistics? A Usability Study on Electronic Reference Statistics
Objective: After implementing an electronic reference statistics tracking system, does the new system allow more precise and easily tracked statistics?
Methods: The reference and education department used a paper system to monitor patron interactions and combined it with information from an electronic calendar to report statistics. Unfortunately, each librarian had a different way of self-reporting interactions on paper. To move away from this outdated and incomplete method, we pursued an electronic system for tracking patron interactions. Librarians explored commercially available systems and systems created by other libraries. We consulted with our in-house systems department about creating a database for tracking the transactions. Because of its ease of use and low cost, librarians chose to implement an online survey using SurveyMonkey to track patron interactions. An updated electronic survey was created using questions from the original print version with edits based on library faculty feedback. For consistency, the library staff added the survey link to their web browsers or as icons on their desktops. As a follow-up, librarians implemented a usability study to learn what revisions are needed. The study was conducted with library faculty and staff.
Results: Twenty-five out of 30 faculty and staff members completed an anonymous survey. Sixty percent of respondents answered that they record their patron interactions more than 75% of the time. Sixty-eight percent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the “new online system helped them keep track of patron interactions.” Usability observations confirmed that power users were quicker to complete the survey and had fewer questions. Those less familiar with the survey were less likely to report that they routinely used it. Ninety-two percent of those surveyed preferred the electronic system paper-based systems.
Conclusions: After almost a year of use, the new system has met the expectations of the developers and resulted in satisfied users. Due to the ease of development, ease of use, and low cost, SurveyMonkey has proved an effective alternative to paper statistics and many of the specialized statistical tracking systems.
Authors: Vedana Vaidhyanathan, Librarian, Reference and Educational Services; Emily Vardell, Director, Reference, Education, and Community Engagement; Kimberly Loper, Special Projects and Digital Initiatives Librarian, Louis Calder Memorial Library, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL; John Reynolds, Reference Librarian, West Boca Branch, Palm Beach County Library System, Boca Raton, FL; Tanya Feddern-Bekcan, AHIP, Head, Education; Louis Calder Memorial Library; Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL