2015 Survey of Graduate and Professional School Students


What is the 2015 Survey of Graduate and Professional School Students?

All graduate and professional school students were invited by the University of Chicago Library to participate in a survey in February 2015 as part of an ongoing program that consults (on a rotating basis) graduate students, undergraduates, and the faculty.   Graduate and professional school students were last surveyed in 2010. This survey was conducted in collaboration with Ithaka S+R, the Deans of Students, and UChicagoGrad.

What did the survey cover?

Unlike previous surveys, which measured satisfaction with the Library’s collections, services, and spaces, this instrument (designed and administered by Ithaka S+R) posed questions about a range of student experiences at the University of Chicago, with modules focused on:

  • Higher Education Objectives
  • Coursework and Academics
  • Role of the Library
  • Research Practices
  • Teaching

Who took the survey?

The survey was distributed on February 4, 2015, to all 8,701 enrolled graduate and professional school students. 2,299 completed responses were received by the time the survey closed on March 4, 2015, giving an overall response rate of 26%. Responses were received from students in all divisions and schools.

  • By division, the highest response rates came from the Humanities Division (43% of enrolled students), the Divinity School (38%), and the Social Sciences (37%).
  • The highest number of responses were received from the Booth School of Business (which has the largest number of enrolled students of the graduate schools) even though that school had the lowest overall rate (16%).  More than three times as many students from the Booth School of Business responded to this survey as did to our previous survey of graduate and professional school students.
  • Response rates were generally higher from students seeking a PhD (37% responded) or MA (36%) than from those seeking terminal professional degrees (e.g., 25% for those seeking an MPP or 16% for those seeking an MBA).


Respondents expressed the value and importance of the Library’s collections to their coursework, research, and teaching. Students want, need, and use our strong, accessible collections; as a result, the collections and all that supports them should remain a high priority for the Library. Put another way, graduate students affirmed the value of the Library’s traditional roles, expressing similar values and uses as were articulated in the 2006 Final Report of the Provost’s Task Force on the University Library

By contrast, those areas and services that were perceived to be of less value were often relatively new functions for the Library: support for data management, Open Access publishing, or new modes of technology-enabled teaching. In a highly traditional culture, it is not surprising that these new roles received modest support. However, the fact that many respondents from across the University expressed support for the Library’s expanded involvement in their academic life provides an opportunity for the Library to start changing perceptions regarding the current and future role of the Library to our students and on this campus.

In fact, in some areas a relatively lukewarm response rate may actually represent a success. While the majority of respondents may not strongly value Library instruction, the value of these initiatives to masters’ students demonstrates their worth. While not all students are receiving referrals, the incidence of referrals and the positive regard for the bibliographers who give consultations demonstrates that both faculty members and students see value in this service. While our collections seem to be perceived as the most important aspect of the Library, our spaces are used with remarkable frequency and at very high rates. And while the professional schools, particularly Booth, tend to make less use of our collections, services, and spaces, the strong response rates from these schools and the interest expressed in deeper engagement with the Library represent an area for tremendous outreach and growth.

Respondents affirmed the Library’s importance to their academic work while expressing the need for greater support from their departments. These areas for support may provide opportunities for potential Library intervention or collaboration. Respondents expressed the need for more assistance developing research topics, more training in formal research methods (as distinct from library research skills), more support while preparing to seek a job, and more services offered at lower costs (including scanning and printing), particularly given the high financial cost of attendance.

The findings of this project indicate many areas for celebration: our strong collections, the growing impact of our services, the heavy use of our spaces, and the high regard our students have for the Library as an institution. The lack of surprises is also positive, as it indicates that we know and understand our users, and are well-equipped to provide for their needs as students and scholars. Our commitment to anticipating and supporting these needs will ensure that the Library continues to be a center of intense intellectual inquiry and “one of the best things at U of C.”

The Library will build on the results of this survey by administering the Ithaka S+R survey of undergraduates in 2017.

University of Chicago Library Assessment Committee: Jamie Carlstone, Elizabeth Edwards, Anne Knafl, David Larsen, Gina Petersen, Margaret Schilt, Rebecca Starkey, Andrea Twiss-Brooks, Catherine Uecker, S. Valiant, Yang Xu

Additional help provided by: Kathy Arthur, Ellen Bryan, Sarah Fesmire Schroeder, Andrew Lee, Holly Lipschultz, Rob Pleshar, Nancy Spiegel, and Kate Swisher.