Since October 2014, when we first opened the doors to the PC Hub and began 24/7 opening hours, the number of people visiting the Kings Norton Library has increased considerably. Interestingly, the PC Hub isn’t the main draw; usage of the first and second floors has risen dramatically too.
This mirrors a sector-wide increase in the use of academic Library buildings (contrary to all those gloomy predictions that they were in decline!). Despite the shift towards using online rather than print resources, there is still a growing demand amongst students to use the Library as their preferred place to study on campus.
Library facilities are important to students
In a HEFCE report from 2010 , satisfaction with library services was the eighth most influential consideration for prospective students in making their university choices. This rating had escalated by 2016, as the Association of University Directors of Estates’ (AUDE) student experience survey found that university facilities are now the most important factor in the decision-making process, followed by accommodation. Of all facilities, libraries are valued most highly, and are the most used by 66% of UK students.
How we are responding
For the last few years, we have been hearing less from our students about our resources and more about the library environment, particularly their concerns about noise and availability of study space. In 2016, these comments comprised 35% of all library-related feedback from the Student Satisfaction and LibQUAL+ Surveys, and 38% from the Postgraduate Teaching Experience Survey.
We have worked hard to help reduce noise by zoning our floors, improving signage and introducing a new SMS service to encourage students to report noise problems discreetly to library staff. Although these developments have had some impact, we are restricted in what we can achieve due to the design of the Library building. It is very difficult to control noise rising from the open atrium, or from staff areas where Information Specialists provide one to one support for learners.
We have also responded to year-on-year comments requesting more and better PCs in the building. We have regularly increased their number to address these concerns but in 2016, for the first time, complaints about the need for better study space were higher than those about lack of sufficient hardware. Clearly there is a balance to be struck now between the availability and type of study space we offer in the Library, of which PC provision is only one.
We are now working on a plan to develop more informal study space in the Library. We will let you know if we are able to progress it, so watch this space!