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Library Assessment Tips & Techniques: Surveys/Tests

Surveys are often used to assess information literacy, library services, and collections (patron satisfaction), and can be online or in paper, but online is prefered.  In the realm of information literacy assessment, surveys of general knowledge without an intervention in the form of targeted library instruction, would be considered indirect assessment.  Tests are used to assess knowledge, skills, and abilities and can take the form of pretests/posttests to measure the efficacy of an intervention, such as an instruction session. For the purposes of instructional  program assessment, test results are aggregated and reported as such. Pretest/posttest assessment is considered a direct assessment of student learning when it is targetted to a specific instructional intervention.

The following steps are meant to guide you in your decision to use surveys/tests and collect meaningful data. See also: IL Assessment Methods and Other Methods .

Step One: Determine the Purpose of the Survey

Step Two: Write the Survey Questions

Writing survey questions is harder than it seems! A poorly written question is useless, no matter how many responses your survey generates. The following tips and resources provide easy to follow guidance on question construction and organization.

Step Three: Create the Survey

There are many tools for creating a survey or test. Print, Scantron, and web-based are the most obvious choices. There are many web-based tools available, either free or subscription. Often, this step influences step two (writing the questions), depending on how your survey software handles certain question types. The following websites provide many examples and comparisons of survey tools:

Off the Shelf Surveys and Tests

If you don't have the time or expertise, but have the money; and/or if you desire benchmarked data (allows the comparison of your results to other libraries' data), there are many products available for information competence, service satisfaction, and collections assessment. One has to weigh the advantages of using off the shelf vs. home made products in terms of specificity requirements for your library and/or customization options, in addition to cost, sampling requirements, and requirements for access to student data via identifying information. The following websites provide examples of off the shelf surveys/tests:

Step Four: Gather the Data

When using online commercial survey software, such as SurveyMonkey (R) or off the shelf surveys, this step is automatically handled by the system. Data is typically gathered in comma delimited (separated) values in rows, where each row represents a respondent and each column the question response, which means it can be imported into Excel, SPSS, SAS, and other statistical packages. Some WYSIWYG products, such as SurveyMonkey, provide basic descriptive data in an easy to read and share format, such as automatically creating tables and charts that illustrate the data that can be added to reports, etc. However, to make inferences from the data, such as determining cause and effect or impact, one has to import the data from the survey/test software into SPSS or another statistical package, which are described in Step Five, and analyze the data for statistical significance.

Step Five: Analyze the Data