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2011 AskColorado and AskAcademic Evaluation

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.

Closer Look_AskCO-AskAcademic Figure 1

What is the Value of an MLIS to You?

In 2008, LRS conducted the 60-Second Survey What is the Value of an MLIS to You?. It was inspired by heated discussions on the Colorado library listserv Libnet about the value of the MLIS degree. The passion, urgency, and breadth of opinions expressed by Colorado librarians on the subject prompted LRS to provide a forum to systematically collect these opinions and reach out beyond Colorado.

LRS administered this survey for a second time in May 2011 to determine how the recession and its ongoing impact on the job market have affected peoples’ opinions about the degree since 2008. A total of 2,487 people responded to the 2011 survey, which asked eight questions about MLIS education, employment, and feelings about the degree (see the Appendix for the complete survey instrument). Most importantly, the survey asked respondents if they felt that the MLIS was worth the time and money they invested, and if they would recommend it to someone else today. More than half of the respondents backed up their survey responses with thoughtful and candid comments about MLIS programs and the library profession. This report presents the results of the survey, with an in-depth analysis of those comments. Additionally, it compares this analysis with the comment analysis from the 2008 survey, revealing some noteworthy trends regarding respondents’ attitudes toward the MLIS degree over time.

Change in School Librarian Staffing Linked With Change in CSAP Reading Performance, 2005 to 2011

In the September 2011 issue of School Library Journal (SLJ), we presented a national analysis of National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) state-level data on librarian staffing and fourth-grade reading scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The results from this study indicated that states that gained school librarians from 2004-05 to 2008-09 showed greater increases in 4th grade reading scores than did states that lost librarians during this time period. As promised, we now move back to the Colorado context to examine the relationships between changes in school library staffing and changes in Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) reading scores over time.

School Librarians Continue to Help Students Achieve Standards: The Third Colorado Study (2010)

Known links between stronger school library programs and better Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) scores are confirmed by a recent examination of 2007-08 data on school libraries and 2008 data on students scoring proficient or advanced on CSAP reading. In addition, stronger library programs were also associated with reduced percentages of students receiving unsatisfactory CSAP scores, thereby helping to close the achievement gap.

Colorado’s @your library Advocacy Campaign Evaluation

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.

Intellectual Freedom Issues in Colorado Libraries: Concerns, Challenges, Resources, and Opinions

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.

Budget Cuts and Their Impact on Library Services to Coloradans

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.

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LRS is part of the Colorado State Library, a unit of the Colorado Department of Education. We design and conduct library research for library and education professionals, public officials, and the media to inform practices and assessment needs. We partner with the Library and Information Science program at University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education to provide research fellowships to current MLIS students.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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