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Scholarly Reading: US and UK Universities


Purpose statement of the project:
The objective of this study is to assess the value of library journal, book, and other scholarly collections to faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students in the academic environment by examining patterns and outcomes of reading. Readings from the library collections are compared to alternative sources of readings.

Gaining a better understanding of how faculty and students use scholarly materials will aid in the decision making process when determining how to allocate resources, as well as demonstrating the value of a library’s scholarly collections to the university. Understanding reading patterns and the relative value of the library-provided resources compared to other sources for scholarly materials will help the library define its unique value proposition.

Carol Tenopir, University of Tennessee

Faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students are invited to participate in this study in three distinct surveys. An email from the library director or designee of each university is sent to all faculty, graduate students, or undergraduate students at that university, asking them to participate, with a link to the appropriate survey instrument.  The message begins with a brief description of the survey and a statement of the rights (informed consent) of survey participants and ends with a link to the survey.  They will be told that clicking on the link to the survey constitutes their willingness to participate in the survey.  Participants may choose whether or not to answer any individual question and may terminate the survey at any time.  Identifying information (e.g., IP addresses, names, or addresses) will not be gathered.

Key variables of interest:
The survey questions are in two principal sections—reader-related (demographics) and reading-related. Reader-related questions form the independent variables and cover the background of the respondent; including age, gender, percentage of work time spent on various activities, number of personal subscriptions, and two measures of recent academic success—publication record and record of recent awards.  The reading-related questions (dependent variables) for each type of scholarly material (articles, books, and “other publications”) are based on the critical incident technique, with the last scholarly reading of that type of material as the “critical” incident of reading. This allows us to ask questions about a specific most recent reading, so the respondent will have a better memory of that reading, rather than having to reflect back on multiple readings over a longer period of time. The questions cover many details of that reading, including time spent on the reading, source of reading, purpose of reading, the value of the reading to the purpose, and outcomes of reading.

The surveys will be available to be deployed at any interested university.  There are 3 distinct surveys, any or all of which may be used.  Separate faculty, graduate, and undergraduate surveys have been designed and are available for use.

As of May 2012: 6 universities in the U.K. and approximately 6 in the U.S. These surveys are based on surveys of journal reading patterns deployed in the U.S., Australia, and Japan over the last 3 decades.

Faculty Scholarly Reading Survey
Graduate Student Scholarly Reading Survey
Undergraduate Student Scholarly Reading Survey