This poster will demonstrate the process for conducting an observational study in an academic library, present methods for data analysis, and recommend techniques for presenting compelling results.
In Nov 2015, Florida International University, with a team of 18 researchers, conducted a large-scale observational study of students using the Green Library. The project received Instructional Review Board approval in October, 2015 after all researchers completed IRB training. The goal of the study was to better understand how students are using the library facility, interacting with its services, and using the collections. The study collected qualitative and quantitative data during a 3-hour peak period of library usage. The study employed an observational checklist adapted from the Linn (2013) research model, pop-up user comment boards, and data extracts from the Integrated Library System, Google Analytics, and other automated systems. Data analysis of the 4,100 student observations, 280 comments, and systems extracts have led to fresh and surprising insights into how students interact with spaces and services. The poster will present preliminary results and offer recommendations and encouragement to others wishing to undertake similar projects.
The research team consisted of enthusiastic volunteers of library faculty and staff from public services, technical services and the systems office. The cross-departmental collaboration has been beneficial to the organization in and of itself.