Improving the graduate student experience through assessment

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | January 30, 2023

Measuring impact is a critical element of library work, and it often illuminates opportunities for improvement. The Library’s recent Graduate Student Survey is one such example and its findings echo results from the UVA-wide Student Experience in the Research University survey, which focused specifically on the graduate student experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic has been a complicating factor in all realms of graduate student life, it affected Library services a great deal during 2020 and 2021, and the responses in the Graduate Student Survey reflected that.

Three key patterns emerged through the surveys, presented here with representative comments:

First, graduate students wanted better outreach efforts to raise awareness of ways the Library can assist them throughout the course of their education, such as recommending purchases, using interlibrary loan, or engaging with specialty units like the Scholars’ Lab.

“While I know that librarians carry significant expertise in countless areas, I am generally unaware of the ways in which they can help to strengthen my research and teaching. Relatedly, the library could better inform graduate students of its services and opportunities.”

Second, they wanted the Library to provide quiet, flexible spaces for collaboration and study — a particular challenge during the height of the pandemic.

“Increasingly working from home has taught me that I need a separate (reliable) space to write and do research.”

Third, they expressed deep interest in having the Library provide access to a variety of materials including print and electronic monographs, as well as journals, streaming audio and video, data sets, and imagery.

“For me, having access to online resources is the MOST important part of my learning and research processes.”

“The physical collection of UVA Library is of critical importance to my research.”

This type of feedback is essential since it can help reveal hidden needs and, when appropriate, assist the Library in knowing how or when to course-correct. In this case, the feedback offers helpful validation for recent projects, such as recurring semesterly emails to students and instructors; the main library renovation, which will include significantly expanded study space; and intentional spending for collection development, including ongoing work on sustainable scholarship.

Anonymized quotes are from the 2021 Library Graduate Student Survey.

This story originally appeared in the Library’s Annual Report for FY 2022-23. Download the full PDF to read more.