High Impact Assessment: Using Focus Groups to Support Change in Your Library

Jefferson B
I can use the Podium PC (with Windows)
Lynn S. Cline, Head, Collection Development & Acquisitions, Missouri State University Libraries
Sherry Mahnken, Reference/Outreach Librarian, Missouri S&T

Focus groups—a technique often used in the for-profit world to test ideas and gather feedback from customers--have been adapted and applied at many libraries. Library customers (or users or patrons) have a lot to tell us about what we can improve to make their experience better with the library. This panel discussion features three academic libraries that held focus groups in the last year.

There is no one way to run focus groups, as this panel illustrates. Each was seeking information to answer a different question, and each made different decisions throughout the process to serve their goal. You will hear how we used different methods to identify our target users; how we selected different methods to recruit & prepare them and reward them for their time; how we developed questions and ran the sessions; and lastly how we recorded the participants input and then sorted this feedback into usable data to answer our questions.

How are we using the information we gathered? What action have we taken with the results? What would we change if we did it again? Should you consider running focus groups at your library? Our experiences may help you decide if, when, and how to do it. A major portion of the time is allotted for audience questions.

Panel members:

Lynn S. Cline
Head, Collection Development & Acquisitions
Missouri State University Libraries
Springfield, MO
[email protected]

Sherry Mahnken
Reference/Outreach Librarian
Wilson Library
Missouri S&T
Rolla, MO
[email protected]

Charmaine G. Scott
Training & Administrative Officer
Washington University Libraries
St. Louis, MO
(314) 935-7277
[email protected]