Guidelines for Designing a Library Survey

Things to think about:

  • What information do you want to gather?  You can use a survey questionnaire to conduct a needs assessment, to evaluate patron satisfaction with your services, or both.  You can also gather demographic information about your service population.
  • Whom do you want to hear from?  Are you looking for feedback from your patrons, or do you want to hear from non-users, too?  That wills determine how you design and distribute your survey.
  • What will you do with the information you get from the survey?  How will you evaluate and present your survey results – and to whom?
  • Remember that patron surveys can also be an effective tool for marketing library services.  For example, a community survey may inform community members about services they are unaware of.

Designing the survey:

  • It’s a good idea to include fixed response questions that use a Likert scale, for example:

When you visit the library, are you able to find what you are looking for?

  • Always
  • Frequently
  • Sometimes
  • Seldom
  • Never
  • A Likert scale lends itself to use in a matrix, as in survey sample #3 (see below)
  • It’s a good idea to include an open-ended question or two in your survey
  • It’s also a good idea to limit your written questionnaire to one or both sides of a single page

How will you distribute the survey?

  • You can mail a survey questionnaire to the community at large, or to a random sample of registered patrons or community members.  Consider the cost of postage for a mailed survey.  How will the surveys be returned to the library?
  • You can place written questionnaires, pencils and boxes for deposit of completed questionnaires in various locations around town.  Using this method, you have an opportunity to hear from non-users as well as library users.  Make an attractive display for the questionnaires and you will be marketing the library at the same time.
  • Arrange to put surveys as inserts in power bills, newspaper advertising supplements, checked out books, or any other vehicles of dissemination you can think of.
  • Provide questionnaires for your patrons to complete during their visits to the library, or post an online survey on the library Web page.
  • To insure a higher rate of return, provide incentives for return of surveys, such as having returned surveys entered into a drawing for prizes or giving out library promotional items in exchange for returned surveys.

Create your own survey or adapt an existing survey:

These Sample Library Surveys (pdf) are provided for your use, including:

  • Sample #1 – a general, single-question survey for library patrons
  • Sample #2 – a single-question survey for library patrons
  • Sample #3 – a patron satisfaction survey that uses fixed response questions, a Likert scale matrix, and an open-ended question
  • Sample #4 – a user satisfaction and needs assessment survey that uses fixed response questions, check boxes, open-ended questions, and demographic questions