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MPOW Annual User Survey Results

This is just a preliminary report on the 2006 user survey at My Place Of Work (MPOW). I’m writing this prior to going to PLA, in preconference gear-up mode, so it’s somewhat rudimentary. But I wanted to THANK everyone who contributed. We had over 6,000 completed surveys, 1,471 suggestions for addressing our budget shortfall, and 1,954 comments, all of them useful, most of which made us glow.

The completed-survey response rate is the first significant boost, from 4,087 last year to 6,105 this year. We believe this is largely because we reached out more aggressively to the blogging/RSS community, and because MPOW users responded to our request for feedback about our 50% reduction in primary funding for the grant year beginning July 1, 2006.

This year, our response group is somewhat younger (the 26-44 age range rose from 29% to 35%), more likely to be from California (22%, up from 18%), more likely to have visited the MPOW website in the last seven days (55%, up from 50%), more likely to visit MPOW at least once a week (53% up from 50%), and more likely to have learned of MPOW within the last year (14%, up from 11%). All nice indications of a resource hitting its stride and growing, something corroborated by our strong increases in use and newsletter subscribers in the last several years.

Our users are also more likely this year to be working librarians (69%, up from 63%) or library students (10%, up from 8%). We clearly have a strong “business to business” component to our services!

Other quick facts from the MPOW 2006 user survey:

Overwhelmingly, respondents rejected the idea of charging for the website (88% somewhat or strongly disagree with that idea) or charging for the newsletter (80% disagree). Ads and underwriting were more palatable (74% and 76%, respectively, strongly or somewhat agree). Only 12% thought we should take no action at all to address our funding shortfall.

We received many good ideas for addressing our funding shortfall, including partnering with other state libraries and organizations (something we’ve been experimenting with, so validation here is really helpful), an online store (in work), online donations (while we agree, we’d have to structure this extremely carefully, since our primary funding source, LSTA, has rigorous guidelines), plus foundation grants (a couple in work, probably a growth area for us) and so forth.

Our regional content is appreciated by our partnering states (if you live outside of California or Washington state, you would not have seen these questions). 79% of California users find our California-related websites very or extremely valuable–almost identical to the Washington state response (78%). Again, there was an uncanny parallel for the question about regional websites in our newsletter, New This Week: 63% of respondents from both states found these very or extremely valuable.

The percentage of respondents who read our RSS feed roughly doubled to 15% of our newsletter subscribers, though in this survey sample, fewer read the newsletter (75% versus 80% last year). Again, given that actual newsletter subscriptions have more than doubled in the past year, that data probably means that this survey had much greater reach than the subscriber base we relied on for our previous three surveys.

Most unexpectedly and wonderfully, we had nice upward bumps for nearly all of the answers for our question, “Tell us all the ways you use MPOW”:

As a tool for answering reference questions: 60% (from 52%)
As an instructional tool: 47% (from 38%)
As quick access to other search tools: 36% (from 30%)
As a resource for links for my library’s website: 44% (from 41%)
As a resource for links to pathfinders and other guides: 40% (from 35%)
As an alternative search tool for kids and teens: 29% (from 18%)
For personal development or enrichment 68% (up from 59%)
As an alert service for myself or coworkers: 41% (up from 35%)
As a resource to share with clubs, local newspapers, etc.: 12% (up from 9%)

Most likely reaching beyond our newsletter reader base helped this question, though we’d like to think that the new design and new features we added in the past year have made us more useful for these purposes.

We will be coding the free-form responses this week and next, and creating some cross-tabulations to help us develop a strong survey summary report. Meanwhile, here are some typical responses to the last question on the survey, “Do you have other comments, feedback, ideas, or suggestions for Librarians’ Internet Index?”

“I’m always amazed at the variety of interesting web sites in the weekly newsletter and grateful that someone takes the time to search them out for the readers.”

“Think you have done an outstanding service.”

“I really look forward to my weekly email from YPOW knowing that the websites given have already been monitored by professional colleagues.”

“You are a national treasure and should have national funding.”

“It’s a fabulous public service that I rely on as a freelance writer.”

“This is the most useful resource I have come across for finding quality information on the net.”

“Your website is wonderful; your trainings are valuable and informative.
Don’t Disappear!!”

“It’s such a wonderful service, it’s my favorite site to use. It will be terrible if your services are cut.”

“Nowhere else can one find such a broad but well-vetted resource. It would be a shame to lose it.”

“Thanks again for the great job that you do. YPOW just keeps getting better and better, and more essential to finding high-quality information online on all subjects.”

“YPOW is an essential tool for searching Information on the Internet. I use it daily and teach it daily, in public classes and on the reference desk. It is essential that while search engines just return unedited lists of sites YPOW supplies a list edited and chosen for their usefulness to citizens. MPOW is part of the American civic promise of good government service. It’s not just that I can’t live without YPOW, the public can not live without a robust YPOW.”

“I work at 3 community colleges, and always end my Bibliographic Instruction Sessions with Your Place Of Work!!!! The teachers and students really appreciate the quality, trustworthy sites that are available.”

I am wildly biased, but I fully agree MPOW rates four exclamation points. I feel that way about the team that makes it happen–the best librarians in LibraryLand!!!!

Thanks again for your thoughtful, enthusiastic, helpful responses to our annual survey, and we’ll produce a more formal report by early April. Feel free to comment here or IM me (liichef) with your questions and comments. (Yes, we’d like a blog–and tagging, user comments, etc.; it’s on the list, we just need funding.) Hope to see many of you at PLA!

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