Use of annual surveying to identify technology trends and improve service provision

Hannah F. Norton, Michele R. Tennant, Mary E. Edwards, Ariel Pomputius


Objective: At an academic health sciences library serving a wide variety of disciplines, studying library users’ technology use provides necessary information on intersection points for library services. Administering a similar survey annually for five years generated a holistic view of users’ technology needs and preferences over time.

Methods: From 2012 to 2016, the University of Florida Health Science Center Library (HSCL) annually administered a sixteen-to-twenty question survey addressing health sciences users’ technology awareness and use and their interest in using technology to engage with the library and its services. The survey was distributed throughout the HSC via email invitation from liaison librarians to their colleges and departments and advertisement on the HSCL home page.

Results: Smartphone ownership among survey respondents was nearly universal, and a majority of respondents also owned a tablet. While respondents were likely to check library hours, use medical apps, and use library electronic resources from their mobile devices, they were unlikely to friend or follow the library on Facebook or Twitter or send a call number from the catalog. Respondents were more likely to have used EndNote than any other citation management tool, but over 50% of respondents had never used each tool or never heard of it.

Conclusions: Annual review of survey results has allowed librarians to identify users’ needs and interests, leading to incremental changes in services offered. Reviewing the aggregate data allowed strategic consideration of how technology impacts library interactions with users, with implications toward library marketing, training, and service development.

 This article has been approved for the Medical Library Association’s Independent Reading Program.


Mobile Technology; Surveys and Questionnaires; User Input

Full Text:



Bushhousen E, Norton HF, Butson LC, Auten B, Jesano R, David D, Tennant MR. Smartphone use at a university health science center. Med Ref Serv Q. 2013 Feb;32(1):52–72. DOI:

Stokes A, Light J, Haines LL. Library support of mobile resources during clinical clerkships. Med Ref Serv Q. 2014 Apr;33(2):179–94.

Mi M, Wu W, Qiu M, Zhang Y, Wu L, Li J. Use of mobile devices to access resources among health professions students: a systematic review. Med Ref Serv Q. 2016 Jan;35(1):64–82.

Wu J, Chatfield AJ, Hughes AM, Kysh L, Rosenbloom MC. Measuring patrons’ technology habits: an evidence-based approach to tailoring library services. J Med Libr Assoc. 2014 Apr;102(2):125–9. DOI:

Mickan S, Tilson JK, Atherton H, Roberts NW, Heneghan C. Evidence of effectiveness of health care professionals using handheld computers: a scoping review of systematic reviews. J Med Internet Res. 2013 Oct;15(10):e212.

Payne KB, Wharrad H, Watts K. Smartphone and medical related app use among medical students and junior doctors in the United Kingdom (UK): a regional survey. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2012 Oct;12:121.

Robinson T, Cronin T, Ibrahim H, Jinks M, Molitor T, Newman J, Shapiro J. Smartphone use and acceptability among clinical medical students: a questionnaire-based study. J Med Syst. 2013 Jun;37(3):9936.

Sandholzer M, Deutsch T, Frese T, Winter A. Predictors of students’ self-reported adoption of a smartphone application for medical education in general practice. BMC Med Educ. 2015 May;15:91.

Davies BS, Rafique J, Vincent TR, Fairclough J, Packer MH, Vincent R, Haq I. Mobile Medical Education (MoMEd) - how mobile information resources contribute to learning for undergraduate clinical students - a mixed methods study. BMC Med Educ. 2012 Jan;12:1.

Le Ber JM, Lombardo NT, Wimmer E. Building technology services that address student needs. Med Ref Serv Q. 2015 Jan;34(1):1–16.

Conley K, Tucker T. Matching media to audience equals marketing success. Coll Undergrad Libr. 2006 Oct;12(1–2):47–64.

Vucovich LA, Gordon VS, Mitchell N, Ennis LA. Is the time and effort worth it? one library’s evaluation of using social networking tools for outreach. Med Ref Serv Q. 2013 Feb;32(1):12–25.

Auten B, Norton HF, Tennant MR, Edwards ME, Stoyan-Rosenzweig N, Daley M. Using NLM exhibits and events to engage library users and reach the community. Med Ref Serv Q. 2013 Aug;32(3):266–89. DOI:

Niu X, Hemminger BM, Lown C, Adams S, Brown C, Level A, McLure M, Powers A, Tennant M, Cataldo T. National study of information seeking behavior of academic researchers in the United States. J Am Soc Inf Sci Technol. 2010 Feb;61(5):869–90.

Folb BL, Wessel CB, Czechowski LJ. Clinical and academic use of electronic and print books: the Health Sciences Library System e-book study at the University of Pittsburgh. J Med Libr Assoc. 2011 Jul;99(3):218–28. DOI:

Hardigan PC, Popovici I, Carvajal MJ. Response rate, response time, and economic costs of survey research: a randomized trial of practicing pharmacists. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2016 Jan–Feb;12(1):141–8.

Scott A, Jeon SH, Joyce CM, Humphreys JS, Kalb G, Witt J, Leahy A. A randomised trial and economic evaluation of the effect of response mode on response rate, response bias, and item non-response in a survey of doctors. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2011 Sep;11:126. DOI:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Hannah F. Norton, Michele R. Tennant, Mary E. Edwards, Ariel Pomputius

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.