Grand Valley State University Libraries: Using Surveys for Career Research

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The Internet, the media–both print and rich–news channels, podcastsYouTube, magazines, books…there’s no lack of where to go to find information. Now say you’re a college student and you’ve just received your first research paper assignment. With all that’s out there by way of information sources, how in the world do you know where to start your research? What’s out there besides Wikipedia? Can a person–an actual person–help guide you?

Say hello to your friendly academic librarian. These are folks with graduate degrees in Library and Information Science (LIS) who have studied to become experts in helping students, non-students, professionals and non-professionals alike make their way through the sometimes confusing maze of information resources. According to the American Library Association, there are currently over 60 accredited programs in the study of LIS across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Lindy Scripps-Hoekstra is an academic librarian at Grand Valley State University, a scholarly community of over 25,000 students and faculty in Michigan. Lindy and her librarian colleagues, Ashley Rosener and Max Eckard, have been conducting research using SurveyMonkey in order to learn more about the kinds of skills that recent LIS grads have acquired and how prepared they are to become the next generation of academic librarians.

Tell us what you worked on.

For new graduates of LIS Master’s programs, obtaining positions in college and university libraries can be challenging. As recent graduates ourselves, we were interested in determining what factors may give certain graduates a better chance at obtaining positions as academic librarians. While soft-skills like personality and public speaking are quite valuable during a job search, we were more interested in the quantifiable experiences of graduates, such as what courses they took, work or volunteer experiences and type of program selected.

Previous studies on this topic have focused on the perspectives of search committees and job posting descriptions. We wanted to switch the focus to the experiences of LIS graduates who successfully landed jobs in order to determine what factors might make the most impact in a job search. An online survey was the perfect tool for gathering this information!

How did you put your plan in action?

We emailed our survey to recent graduates of LIS programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and North Carolina Central University. We also posted a link to the survey in related listservs and new librarian-focused forums. While we didn’t offer any tangible incentive, we did encourage participation by focusing on how responses would help the next generation of library science students make decisions to enhance their employability.

What did you find out?

The majority of LIS graduates who successfully obtained jobs in academic libraries after graduation…

  • attended their graduate program full-time
  • began their job search early—at least four months before graduation
  • found their jobs within three months of graduation
  • generally applied to up to ten positions
  • had experience working in academic library settings, either a job, internship or volunteer work
  • participated in professional development by attending library-related conferences and workshops
  • took courses focused on academic librarianship
  • did not always need to relocate to find a position

We also learned that there’s a wealth of job searching advice for today’s LIS graduate. However, much of this advice is anecdotal and based on one person’s unique experience. Our survey results corroborate this advice on the basis of data from hundreds of respondents.

What’s next?

We’ll be presenting the results of our survey to other librarians and library school students at two upcoming professional conferences. We also hope to begin work on an article detailing our research and findings for publication in a scholarly journal within the field of library and information science.

Click here to learn more about Grand Valley State University and their libraries.

Getting started on your first scholarly research project? Don’t forget to check out our academic survey templates available here!

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Inspired? Create your own survey.

Inspired? Create your own survey.

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    • Kayte K

      Thanks for the love! Don’t hesitate to let us know if you ever need any help with anything. :)