Four West Virginia University students are helping to increase understanding of how users perceive WVU Libraries.

The team studied three years of survey results for the WVU Libraries and presented its findings during a session at the American Libraries Associations January conference in Philadelphia. The groups efforts won applause from about 50 academic library administrators from around the country.

The students did an incredible job from start to finish, WVU Libraries dean Frances OBrien said.They did a thorough job analyzing the data, and they impressed a roomful of deans and directors with their presentation at the conference. Both are difficult tasks even for professionals in the field.

Those accolades go to marketing seniors Amanda Darby of Bruceton Mills; Ryan DSouza of Morgantown; David Hughes of Skippack, Pa.; and Angela Julien of Bear, Del.

The students were recruited by Paula Bone, a marketing professor in WVU s College of Business and Economics. OBrien approached Bone last spring about finding a few students to transform pages of survey data into a usable report and then deliver their results to the librariesadministration.

As the project developed, it came to the attention of the Association of Research Libraries, which invited the group to give the national conference presentation.

Despite a few initial butterflies, the students left the stage feeling good about their performance and their research.

It went fabulously,Darby said.It was a bit intimidating, but once we got started, they were all interested in what we had to say.

Several people took copious notes, and the students fielded nearly two dozen questions from the audience about their work and how to replicate it at other universities.

The team also won a few laughs when talking about people using cell phones in the library. Apparently, rampant cell phone use is a universal problem in public spaces.

It was exciting for other people to see our work and be excited about it as well,Julien said.

She also believes team members returned to Morgantown feeling more comfortable speaking in front of large groups and more proficient in their field of study. Although they have made presentations to companies as part of class assignments, Julien said this time their efforts felt different.

We actually did something that people are able to take away,she said.We really got feedback, and well see if theyre going to do the things we recommended, which I think is more rewarding than a grade because its ongoing.

We can see the results,Julien added,and we feel like we made an impact.

That sense of accomplishment is the result of months of work that began near the close of the spring 2007 semester.

The students spent about a month acquainting themselves with the LibQual survey before reading and categorizing thousands of comments. They analyzed more than 100 pages of charts, graphs and numbers. The students also talked with OBrien and spent more time studying in the library to observe and learn about its offerings.

The WVU students give a lot of credit to OBrien for being available for questions and to Bone for being a great mentor. They praised Bone for encouraging them to try new things and to not be afraid to make mistakes.

Thats how we learned so much,Julien said.There was a lot of trial and error.

Bone expected a positive result from the start when she first learned of LibQuals connection to ServQual, which is internationally known for service quality and customer satisfaction research.

While she typically enjoys doing projects for the University and nonprofits, she especially liked that this project gave the group a rich experience by introducing them to a standard practice in the industry.

That gives the student an entrance into any service marketing job,Bone said.They can say, �€~I really understand how to measure quality.

LibQual is an online survey that asks participants about their desired, perceived and minimum expectations of service from the WVU Libraries. During the spring semesters of 2003, 2005 and 2007, WVU Libraries randomly selected 4,000 students, faculty and staff to complete the survey.

The responses led the libraries to make several changes, including extending hours to 2 a.m. and adding Elizas, a coffee shop, to the Downtown Campus Library.

With three yearsworth of results compiled, OBrien wanted to dig deeper into the data and develop a clearer picture of what users think about the librariesofferings and recent enhancements. The report affirmed the enhancements the libraries have already made and suggested a few additional changes.

The studentstop recommendation was to increase the number of journal holdings for each discipline. Along with that, they suggested increasing awareness of existing offerings. Many people voiced frustration in the survey over materials that they didnt know the libraries already owned.

A second recommendation addressed computer access. It called for designating a cluster of computers for 15-minute intervals that would allow students to complete tasks such as print papers or check e-mail.

The third recommendation was to do more to promote the librariescell phone policy, which directs people to stairwells to talk on phones.

We all understand more about LibQual now thanks to the studentswork,OBrien said.The strategy grids were especially useful to see the effects of changes we made. I think the important thing about the survey is to track the results over time and see if library users continue to be satisfied with our new programs and services.