AskColorado (www.askcolorado.org), a statewide virtual reference service, was launched on September 2, 2003. Colorado libraries joined the cooperative as members to provide 24/7 chat reference service to Coloradans (see Figure 1 for a timeline of the service). Early iterations of the service included queues for K-12 students, general audiences, academic patrons, and Spanish speakers. Over time, the cooperative weeded-out non-essential (and/or low use) services and honed in on three essential and high-use entry-points for patrons: K-12, General, and Academic. These entry points remain today. In 2008 the cooperative’s academic libraries voted to accept academic members from outside the state of Colorado; and in 2010, the academic queue was re-branded as AskAcademic and a separate website was launched (www.askacademic.org). Though AskColorado as a whole was previously evaluated by the Library Research Service (LRS) in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008, 2011 marks the first year LRS has evaluated AskAcademic as a separate entry point.
From April 4 to October 31, 2011, a pop-up survey administered by the Library Research Service (LRS) was presented to library patrons using the AskColorado and AskAcademic virtual reference services (the survey instruments are in Appendices A and B). The purpose of the survey was to gauge patron satisfaction and outcomes. Demographic questions, tailored to the specific survey populations (e.g., county of residence for AskColorado users, institutional affiliation for AskAcademic users, etc.), were also asked. During the survey administration period, more than 15,000 library patrons used the services, 13,299 via AskColorado and 1,833 via AskAcademic. Of those, 1,091 AskColorado users (8%) and 206 AskAcademic users (11%) completed the surveys. In addition to responding to the close-ended questions, 405 AskColorado users and 68 AskAcademic users provided open-ended text comments on their perceptions of the quality and helpfulness of the services (see Appendices C and D).
This report analyzes the results of the two surveys separately to account for differences between the services and their respective survey instruments. Changes to the services over time (see Figure 1), as well as to the survey questions and administration procedures, prevent longitudinal analysis; however, general comparisons of data gathered from 2004 to the present are discussed in this report.
From March to May 2005, a study concerning academic library usage and outcomes was conducted by the Library Research Service in association with the Colorado Academic Library Consortium. The primary objectives of the study were to gain a greater understanding of how academic libraries help students learn, and to assess how libraries assist instructors in their teaching and research activities. Nine Colorado institutions administered two online questionnaires—one to undergraduate students and another to faculty members who teach undergraduate courses. Overall, 3,222 individuals responded to the student survey, while 395 instructors answered the faculty survey.
The Colorado Advocacy Project, Colorado’s @your library Campaign, is a statewide advocacy campaign sponsored by the Colorado Association of Libraries. It contains elements of public relations, marketing, and community relations to build visibility and support for libraries and has been active from 2002 through October 2004 with three components:
- The Initiative (Coach/Player) Project;
- Public Relations/Marketing Training;
- Statewide Promotion Project.
The Coach/Player Project was designed on an initiative-mentor model and matched mentor libraries with trainee libraries for year-long training and support in some type of advocacy or marketing effort. The project had 13 participating coaches and 11 participating players. 100% of both coaches and players completed their marketing projects. That phase of the campaign was completed in 2003 and has been evaluated in a final report by Bonnie McCune. A second year of teams is now in process.
This report evaluates the second two components of the overall project that are in process and scheduled for completion in October 2004 (funded by a LSTA 2003-2004 grant). In the second year the two campaign components have emphasized academic and school libraries with:
- Targeted positioning and promotion for academic and school libraries (leveraged support for marketing through collaborations, outreach, and material), while continuing on-going general promotion launched during the first year.
- Targeted public relations/marketing training (hands-on training and tool kits, targeted to academic and school libraries), while continuing to offer general training launched during the first year.
This project was conceived by the Colorado Association of Libraries’ (CAL) Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) to shed light on intellectual freedom issues in Colorado libraries. Of particular interest to the IFC were ‘challenges to’ versus ‘concerns about’ materials and the Internet in libraries. There was anecdotal evidence that there were far more concerns being raised by patrons about materials and the Internet than there were formal challenges. That is, a significant number of patrons were expressing concerns about materials and the Internet at their libraries, but they were not proceeding with formal challenges. In examining the issue of challenges versus concerns, this study examines the findings by type of library, community, and library personnel. In addition, this study investigates libraries’ challenge policies and strategies, usage rates of CAL-IFC and American Library
Association (ALA) Intellectual Freedom resources, the perceived influence of intellectual freedom issues in libraries, and the opinions of library personnel about these issues. All data was gathered using an online questionnaire.
In fall 2003, a survey commissioned by the Strategic Issues and Emergency Response (SIER) Committee of the Colorado Association of Libraries (CAL) and administered by the Library Research Service (LRS) measured the extent of local budget cuts to libraries across Colorado. The Budget Cut Survey found that cuts to local library budgets in the state had totaled over 11 million dollars between July 2002 and the time of the survey.