In 2018, the majority (six out of eight) of New Zealand academic libraries undertook the Ithaka S+R faculty survey in order to explore and deepen understanding of scholars’ research and teaching practices and needs. The project was initiated by the Council of New Zealand University Librarians (CONZUL) with the Ithaka S+R instrument chosen as this is a well-established tool with a strong track record in evaluating the relationship between scholarly researchers and the use of libraries. The goal of the NZ survey was to gather this information for each institution for internal consideration and also collate results at national level for comparison against each other and with other countries. As New Zealand is a small country, it made sense to participate together. This allowed us to collect and analyze the data at both the individual and cross-institutional level. Christine Wolff-Eisenberg, who runs Ithaka S+R’s surveys service also came for a site visit, which gave us the opportunity to more deeply interact with the results and consider what we could collaborate further on.

So what did the survey results tell us and were there any surprises? The over-arching theme from the survey results (local and national) is that faculty members have a wide variety of practices, needs and preferences when using our library resources and services. It is reassuring that faculty members in New Zealand do think that their library is important and it is also reassuring that New Zealand’s results reflect results from other countries.

However, there were differences between countries in some areas.  For example, compared to faculty members from other countries, CONZUL member institution faculty members are especially likely to begin their research with Google Scholar, and this behavior is particularly prevalent with junior faculty.  The ways in which faculty members make their research publications available for free online also varies across New Zealand, the US, and the UK. Respondents from the UK, for example, indicated far higher engagement with their institution’s repository and less interest in using an open access disciplinary repository (e.g. PubMed, SSRN) compared with researchers from NZ and the US.

The survey results suggest some areas for us to consider at a local level:

  • Develop strategies for promoting and encouraging greater understanding and use of the University’s institutional repository and other options for open access publishing
  • Develop greater understanding about the content/texts that faculty members choose in order to assist with selection options for the curriculum
  • Work with faculty members to develop deeper understanding of the publishing lifecycle, and publishing models, formats and tools in order to:
    • Optimise the use of Library resources
    • Maximise visibility and engagement of scholarly research output
  • Determine the Library’s role in managing and preserving research data
  • Work with faculty members to develop sustainable and scalable options for improving undergraduate and postgraduate research skills and using scholarly texts
  • Continue to develop services to optimise access and use of the Library
  • Continue to develop strategies for connecting print and electronic resources

Based on these areas, each institution will prepare their own set of action items.  At Victoria University of Wellington, for example, we have included promoting our institutional repository as a 2019 priority with a KPI of increasing deposits by 20 percent.  At the CONZUL level, we have agreed to investigate best practices for managing research data with the goal to establish a national metadata registry.

Undertaking the Ithaka S+R survey across the country was very helpful in understanding how our researchers work and engage with our libraries. Though it would be useful to undertake this survey again to measure changes over time, from general comments it is evident that faculty do suffer from survey fatigue and hence, it will be important to consider the impact on our staff if we were to do this. It may, for example, be more useful to consider other ways to obtain the data or concentrate on a specific area of library services or target a particular academic cohort. Whatever we decide, it is always useful to look beyond the shores of New Zealand to evaluate how libraries operate in other institutions (and countries) which is where Ithaka S+R can be extremely helpful as it has the expertise and experience to guide this future research.