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Longitudinally Observing Resource Usage Barriers Expected and Encountered by School of Public Health Affiliates at a Health Sciences Center Library

Resource Type
  • Bourgeois, John (Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center - New Orleans)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • South Central Academic Medical Libraries Consortium (SCAMeL)
Free Keywords
library; health sciences; library outreach; questionnaires; surveys; public health; health information needs
  • Abstract

    OBJECTIVE: Over a semester, this longitudinal observational study explored the relationship between actual and expected usage of library resources as well as anticipated and encountered barriers to that usage among public health affiliates. METHODS: School of Public Health affiliates were sent questionnaires monthly throughout a semester. These questionnaires asked about library usage and library barriers in order to examine changes. Participants were compensated $5 for each questionnaire completed. RESULTS: These questionnaires examined why patrons registered with the library, what resources they used, and what difficulties they encountered. Most patrons used resources less often that they predicted at the beginning of the semester, mainly because of time constraints but also due to problems navigating the library’s website and databases. Registrants did not have accurate expectations about how often they will use the library's resources as well as what resources they will use. At the beginning of the semester, participants expected barriers to usage but were not sure what. Although most respondents encountered no difficulties using library resources, those who did often had multiple problems and seldom sought library assistance. CONCLUSION: These affiliates have high expectations of library usage. The library needs to manage expectations as well as assist in difficulties. Study across an entire health sciences center is needed to determine differences across schools.

Temporal Coverage
  • 2017-08-01 / 2017-12-31
    Time Period: Tue Aug 01 00:00:00 EDT 2017--Sun Dec 31 00:00:00 EST 2017 (Fall 2017)
Geographic Coverage
  • New Orleans, LA, USA
Collection Mode
  • The study was conducted throughout the course of the fall 2017 semester. In order for university affiliates to use most library resources, they must first register with the library. This process involves completing an application, receiving a barcode on the back of their identification card, and setting a PIN for off-campus access. While the majority of library registrations occur in-person, registrations via email do occur, and these patrons have full access to library resources. Because registration is required for library access, most School of Public Health (SPH) affiliates complete it at the beginning of their tenure at the school, making this step ideal for recruitment at a time when the individual has probably not used local library resources already. After SPH patrons registered with the library, a librarian recruited them to participate in this research with the assurance that a refusal to participate would not impact their access to library services or resources. If informed consent was attained, a questionnaire was administered electronically via SurveyMonkey. This baseline questionnaire asked why they registered and how they learned to register. The respondents also marked which library resources they believe they will use most often. Furthermore, the questionnaire sought information on whether the participants expected difficulties and what difficulties they may encounter. Participants were also asked their year of birth and which program they were in for demographic purposes. Following completion of this questionnaire, the research subjects were compensated with a $5 gift card which had to be collected in-person at the library circulation desk. Within a few weeks of the fall semester’s commencement, most registrations have occurred. If SPH affiliates are recruited during this time, they were eligible to participate for the full duration of the study. However, recruitment occurred throughout the entire semester. One month after they answer the baseline questionnaire, participants were electronically sent a follow-up questionnaire to gather information on personal resource usage in the past month: what library resources did they use, how often, for how long. This questionnaire also explored participants’ articulated barriers to access and how they overcame these challenges, if they had. The second half of follow-up survey asked respondents to predict resource usage for the coming month as well as any difficulties expected. Upon completion, the participants each received a $5 gift card as compensation for their time. Two follow-up questionnaires maximum were administered prior to the administration of the final questionnaire. These subsequent research questionnaires continued monthly from the date that the previous questionnaire was completed. At the end of the semester, subjects completed a final questionnaire to gather their perceptions about the library’s resources. This last questionnaire had three parts. The first asked respondents to recall their past month, similar to the follow-up questionnaire. The second part was for respondents to reflect on the whole semester. The last component of the final questionnaire asked for predictions about usage and barriers in the spring semester. Compensation of a $5 gift card was given upon completion. This concluded the subjects’ involvement in the project. Following Fall Commencement, all identifiers were stripped from the dataset, leaving only the last four digits of the patron’s barcode as a unique identifier.             A major consideration was patrons who registered later in the semester. Regardless of when in the fall semester an SPH patron registered, the individual was offered the opportunity to participate in the study. The rationale was that those registering later in the semester may have different experiences and motivations than those registering at the beginning of the semester. Therefore their inclusion was beneficial to enrich the data’s representation. In fact, patrons were eligible to be recruited until the end of the semester. If this occurred, the subjects were only administered the baseline survey with $5 gift card compensation. No final questionnaire was administered in these cases.             Because of the research’s longitudinality, loss to follow-up was a major factor. In order to mitigate this, SPH registrants received up to two reminder emails to participate in the baseline questionnaire. If no response was received, then the patron was no longer contacted regarding this baseline instrument. Similarly, if respondents had completed a baseline questionnaire but had not completed follow-up questionnaires, they would receive two reminders to complete it. Each reminder was sent a week after the previous contact if the questionnaire had not been completed. Because three questionnaires could be completed before the administration of final questionnaire, loss to follow-up had the potential to be elevated, despite incentives and reminders. To minimize this loss, another instrument – the final-baseline questionnaire – was administered. If an SPH registrant did not respond to the baseline questionnaire or if a prior respondent was lost to follow-up, then during the last month of the fall semester the patron was electronically sent the informed consent form and the final-baseline questionnaire. This final-baseline questionnaire asked about library resource usage in the past semester, difficulties encountered during that time, and attempts to overcome those difficulties. Then the final-baseline questionnaire inquired about planned usage and difficulties for the spring semester. Essentially, the final-baseline questionnaire was comprised of the second and third parts of the final questionnaire. Both the final and final-baseline questionnaires were sent to SPH patrons at the same time, though no patron received both instruments. This was due to the nature of the inclusion factors. All SPH fall semester registrants did receive an invitation to complete one of these questionnaires, with two reminder messages sent as appropriate.


Update Metadata: 2020-02-14 | Issue Number: 1 | Registration Date: 2020-02-14

Bourgeois, John (2020): Longitudinally Observing Resource Usage Barriers Expected and Encountered by School of Public Health Affiliates at a Health Sciences Center Library. Version: V0. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.