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Spotlight: Students Talk Back to the Library

eNews Edition: Spring 2023

Two charts from the presentation on the 2022 student survey for the CSUN University Library
Slide from the 2022 Student Survey titled: If the same book were available as paper hardcopy or digital ebook, which would you prefer? Left column are responses from 2018, right column are from 2022. (L/R values) - Print: 33% / 20%, Depends on content: 35% / 40%, Print for ambience / Digital for work: 9% / 10%, All digital: 9% /16%, No preference: 15% / 14%

Contributed by Elizabeth Altman

Every two years, the CSUN University Library sends a survey to current CSUN undergraduate and graduate students. Recently Dr. Laura Wimberley, Assessment Librarian and Chair of the Research, Instruction and Outreach Services Department, shared key findings from the most recent November 2022 survey at a Library employee town hall. We are pleased to share selected highlights from the presentation.

The survey was conducted on the Qualtrics platform, with an alternative ADA-compliant version made available. The survey link was emailed directly to a randomly-selected subset of the student body, 10,928 undergraduate and 10,072 graduate students. Of those, 13% responded – the highest response rate yet in the history of the survey – with the response proportionally a bit higher from graduate students, for a total of 1,586 responses.

How often do students go to the CSUN Library?

A slightly higher percentage of students told us that they never enter the library building than in 2018. This is not surprising given the expansion of online services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The top reasons for not coming to the Library were that they preferred to work at home and owned a computer. More students reported being a parent or caregiver, which kept them at home, than in 2018. The proportionally higher response rate by graduate students might also mean that we were hearing from students taking all-online courses, which gave them less reason to come to campus.

Those who did come to the Library most often used the Library’s individual and group study spaces, and slightly more students came to checkout laptops for take-home use, all of which corresponds to more online and hybrid course offerings.

Are students benefiting from Library instruction?

The CSUN Library offers a robust program of instruction, which academic departments can provide to students through their enrolled courses. Librarian instruction sessions take place in a variety of formats (Zoom, lab-based in-person instruction, and course-website-based interaction) and provide information-competence-based orientation and instruction on library resources and research strategies. Fewer respondents in 2022 reported having had course-related library instruction than did respondents in 2020. However, we were pleased to find that significantly more students – 16%! – made use of online library resources when they had had library instruction as part of their coursework.

We were encouraged to find that 65% of students who sought help from a librarian outside of an instructional session were completely satisfied with the support their received – that’s an increase from 57% in 2020. Satisfaction rose to 75% of respondents who got that help in person, at a library service desk.

What are students reading?

While electronic book offerings increased during the pandemic, we found that 20% of students still preferred print over e-books outright; 40% responded that their preference depended on the subject matter. This year we asked a new question: do you read for fun? About 30% responded “often,” 65% responding “sometimes.” Both categories of leisure readers ranked mystery, fantasy, romance and science fiction as their top 4 favorite genres.

What events would students like to see at the Library?

Each year the Library hosts a number of events, many targeted specifically to students, such as Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Presents: Get Career Wise and Creative Maker Studio Workshops. Over 90% of the respondents were interested in attending library events. Of the event categories they were asked about, they showed the most enthusiasm (60%) for Movies, and their positive response to Crafting, Gaming, Book readings, and Books clubs inspired us. Could we create a film series? Could the Creative Maker Studio host hands-on workshops for students in specific majors? Could we create a book club for each of those four favorite genres?

Both staff and librarians were delighted to receive this information from our student respondents. The data gives a positive picture of the direction of our programming, indicating where we have yet to grow, and what further questions we can ask next time. We hope this data inspired you too! How would you like to be involved in enriching the student experience through the Library? Contact Tarry Kang ( to find out how you can help.

*Note: the quotations above are selected from responses to the open question, “What does the Library do to help you succeed at CSUN? What else could we do?”