Library surveys

Library surveys are a useful way to align your library resources and services to meet teacher and student needs.


Purpose of your survey: what you want to find out
Deciding on who to survey - and why
Tips on how to create a good survey
Collection development surveys
Information literacy surveys
Library use and environment surveys
Teacher surveys
Survey methods

Purpose of your survey: what you want to find out

Have specific goals and purposes in mind before you create your survey. What data do you want to collect? How are you going to use the data in your library programme?

For example, information on favourite genres and authors could be used to:

  • Develop your collection (fiction, non-fiction, magazines, online resources)
  • Engage reluctant readers by shoulder-tapping them with a selection of books they may enjoy
  • Inspire displays and shelving decisions

Surveying students on their attitudes toward reading at the beginning and end of a year / unit can be a useful way to:

  • Measure the effectiveness of your library programmes
  • Provide positive information for your library report and help you advocate for the library
  • Give you and your teachers information about who to target for reading extension and intervention

Deciding on who to survey - and why

Always keep your purpose in mind when deciding who to survey. It may be best to start with a small sample of students in order to keep data manageable. Collaborating with teachers and heads of departments will help you decide which students to target.

Questions to ask when selecting survey participants include:

  • What information do I want to collect?
  • How will I use this information?
  • Who can I collaborate with? Is there a teacher who wants to raise reading engagement with a specific class?
  • Who else will benefit from this information? (Teachers, principal, parents, Board of Trustees)
  • How will I share my results?

Tips on how to create a good survey

  • Keep questions clear, direct and brief. Make sure each question relates to your purpose.
  • Use language that the students understand. This could mean using images (smiling / frowning faces) for young children.
  • Avoid jargon (genre, OPAC).
  • Make the first questions easy and fast to draw students in.
  • Limit use of text boxes (open answer questions). These can be useful for soliciting information about attitudes and opinions, but only if students are articulate and engaged enough to give thoughtful answers.
  • Ask a colleague to proofread and test your survey before you give it to students. Make sure you know how long students will need to complete it.
  • Keep the survey short and focused! Consider offering an incentive to encourage participation.

Collection development surveys

These are examples of questions that can be used if you want information from students to guide your collection development. You can use this information to develop your buying plan, encourage more students to use the library and engage reluctant readers with high interest material.

Keep track of individual / class issues before and after you survey students and develop your collection. Share this information with your principal and Board of Trustees (BOT) to show that you are making a real difference in students’ reading engagement.

Here's an example of a Collection Development survey (DOC) which you can adapt to meet your needs. You may wish to ask for the Year level of the respondent, and whether they're male or female.

Other ways of collecting student requests for books:

  • Books Choice Champions Practice shows children surveying other students for book suggestions, collating requests, ordering and purchasing books.
  • Direct request: Keep a notebook on your issues desk for students to write in titles, authors, subjects or genres that they would like to see more of in your collection. You could also keep sticky notes and pens available for students to record their requests and stick them on your library workroom door.
  • Wishing Wall - What is your Favourite Book? Cover a large wall with paper and ask for signed suggestions for any area of the library. See an example from InfoEagles.
  • Try using Wordle to collate and display the requests!

Information literacy surveys

These questions can be used to help you evaluate students’ information literacy skills, identify gaps and plan a teaching programme. Be sure to share the information you gather with the teaching staff so you can collaborate on a school-wide method for teaching and modelling information literacy.

Evaluating students’ skills and knowledge at the beginning and end of a teaching unit will show you how much students have learned. Report this information to your principal and BOT to show them how your work is making a difference to student learning.

Here are some sample Information Literacy survey (DOC) questions you're welcome to use and adapt when compiling your own Information Literacy survey.

Library use and environment surveys

These questions can be used to identify issues which prevent students and teachers from using the library regularly to support reading and inquiry or research.

Here's a sample Library use and environment survey (DOC) with questions you're welcome to adapt and use in your school.

Teacher surveys

Close collaboration with teachers is an important part of your library programme. You can use surveys to gather information about teachers’ unit plans, personal reading interests, teacher knowledge of library resources and how teachers are instructing students to find and use information.

Here are two sample surveys: a Primary and intermediate teacher survey (DOC), and a Secondary school teacher survey (DOC). You are welcome to use or adapt questions from these sample surveys to construct your own.

Survey methods

Surveys are best administered during class time and under teacher supervision.

Paper surveys can work well, but collating responses and generating reports is often time-consuming. The following online tools make it simple for you to create attractive, easy-to-use surveys that will engage students and save precious hours.

Each tool offers a free basic package which will probably be sufficient for your needs. The sites have detailed instructions, allow you to create different types of questions and make it easy to share your survey with a unique link that you can email or place on your library blog/website.

If your school uses Moodle then you can create and conduct surveys using the Feedback Module.

If your students are familiar with Google Docs then you can also use Google forms to create and administer a free survey.

image: Design Together Project, buy Dublin City Public Libraries, on Flickr