Seven Years of Noise Reduction Strategies in an Academic Library Improve Students’ Perceptions of Quiet Space, Especially Among Graduate Students
A Review of:
McCaffrey, C. & Breen, M. (2016). Quiet in the library: An evidence-based approach to improving the student experience. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 16(4), 775-791. http://doi.org/10.1353/pla.2016.0052
Objective – To examine the interventions implemented by an academic library for noise management, and their impact on library users, over a seven-year period.
Design – Retrospective data analysis.
Setting – University library in Ireland.
Subjects – LibQUAL data from 2007, 2009, 2012, and 2014.
Methods – The researchers analyzed data from the 22 core LibQUAL questions and the three dimensions of library as place, information control, and effect of service. The study focused specifically on LibQUAL question LP2 in the library as place dimension: quiet space for individual work. Qualitative free text comments in the surveys related to noise or quiet issues were also analyzed. The adequacy mean was used to determine improvement in scores; this metric is calculated by subtracting the minimum mean score from the perceived mean score.
Main Results – LibQUAL scores related to the quiet space question steadily improved over the seven-year period studied. The adequacy mean went from -1.2 to -0.13, representing a 1.07 degree of improvement. For all 22 questions, the adequacy mean increased from 0.02 to 0.38, showing overall improvement of 0.36. Researchers reviewed the data for all individual questions to measure the degree of change over the seven years; the quiet space question had the highest level of improvement of all of the questions. Considering user groups’ perceptions, there was a 2.03 degree of improvement for graduate students, while there was a 0.82 degree of improvement for undergraduates.
The researchers wanted to know if the noise interventions had a specific impact on the quiet space question compared to a more general impact on the “library as place” dimension. None of the other “library as place” questions improved to the degree of the quiet space question. Of the “library as place” questions, question LP5, the group space question, was the only one where the adequacy mean dropped, with an adequacy mean difference of -0.23.
External benchmarking conducted by the researchers put these results in an international context, using consortium data from ARL in North America and the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) in the United Kingdom (U.K.).
Conclusion – Based on the study findings, the long-term noise management program implemented from 2007 to 2014 at the University library had a measurable impact, and users’ perceptions of the quiet space in the library improved. Because perceptions improved most among graduate students, researchers concluded that future efforts for noise management strategies should consider focusing on this group.
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