In the spring of 2013, SUNY Potsdam's College Libraries ran the pilot local survey version of Ithaka S+R's long-running national Faculty Survey. We administered the same survey instrument used in the national survey to our faculty, and in doing so, we got a dataset about their beliefs about scholarship, libraries, and teaching with technology and information resources that is directly comparable to the national results.
So how did that happen? I was invited to participate in the first local survey pilot in large part because in 2011 I blogged about my strong reaction to the Ithaka 2010 Library Survey, in which library directors' opinions are sought and compared to the faculty survey. I then shared those thoughts at an ACLTS panel at ALA in 2011, and as a result began an ongoing professional conversation with Roger Schonfeld, Ithaka's Program Director for Libraries, Users, and Scholarly Practices. In 2012, he invited Potsdam to participate with a handful of other campuses in their pilot for a local version of the survey.
My experience with the survey has been extremely positive. For a campus my size, the survey cost $5000, and the Libraries and the academic deans partnered to fund it. Because of our small campus faculty population, an expedited Institutional Review Board application was necessary due to the potential for reverse identification of respondents based on demographic data. However, expedited review is complex but not onerous, and gives the survey legitimacy in the eyes of other campus researchers. Soliciting participation was no easier than for any other assessment activity, but we achieved 30% participation through blast emails, solicitations at campus governance meetings, and requesting that the deans facilitate communications. Ithaka provided a basic report with charts and tables for all data points in the instrument, as well as the full dataset for both Potsdam's survey and the national result set. Review and analysis of those results will then be done at Potsdam.
Though Ithaka delivered our results in April, I've fallen prey to the traditional problem of assessment: now I've got the data, but the time to do something with it is elusive. Assessment is always far more work than you think it is. As of early July, I'm working with a library staff member, Alex Gomez, to more fully analyze our data. Alex and I are collaborating to prepare several reports for campus use: a Libraries report, an Academic Affairs report, and a faculty/technology development report.
A small sample of results and uses from each area:
As I noted earlier, my experience with this project has been extremely positive. It was easy, Ithaka was lovely to work with, and the data are well-presented and usable. In the future, I would be very interested in comparing our Potsdam results to datasets from other SUNY comprehensive colleges, or the SUNY system in general, if that data were available. With the current data, I can compare our results to our national peers, but if we’re to continue working in concert as our notion of systemness evolves, ought we not be comparing ourselves to each other, as well? The potential is there, and this is an extremely useful tool on that path.