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2017 Library Needs Assessment

The EPA National Library Network conducted a needs assessment of library users in the first quarter of FY2018. The goal of the survey was to determine how library patrons use EPA libraries, what benefits they derive from library services, and what the libraries can do to improve information services. For this project the Library Network partnered with the Federal Research Division (FRD) of the Library of Congress. The final report prepared by FRD is available below.

EPA National Library Network User Needs Survey, March 2018 (PDF) (91 pp, 1.42MB)You may need a PDF reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.In the third quarter of FY2018 a workgroup of Network librarians came together to analyze the report and pull out the 11 key findings and related recommendations listed below.  These will be used as a guide for future Network planning to ensure that patron needs are met. 

Key Findings

  1. More than one-third of respondents (36%) use EPA library services at least once a week, with 18% of those reporting several times a week and 5% daily. An estimated 52% of respondents feel the library staff and available resources assist them in locating the information they need all or most of the time.
    -Explore options for engaging with library users more frequently.
  2. The survey pool was selected from known library users, leaving the information needs of non-users to be a major area of discovery. Next steps should include methods for interacting with non-users to gauge how libraries can meet their information needs. 
    -Investigate ways to promote library services outside of the current patron base.
  3. Most respondents report they learn about EPA library services through library Intranet sites (73%) or by visits to the library (61%). Free-form comments from respondents underscored the importance of contact with the librarian.
    -Libraries should seek ways to partner with local organizations to hold events in the library. This could bring non-library users into the space where they learn about available library services.
    -Since patrons learn about library services most often from Intranet sites, virtual library orientations and video trainings at the point of need would take advantage of this avenue.
    -Additional channels for outreach include library welcome letters to new employees and specialty library training as a Skillport option.
    -Federal Library Managers should assist local librarians in finding ways to connect with their local patrons.
  4. The majority of respondents report they are satisfied with EPA libraries and that professional library staff provide critical services to help them with information needs.
    -Network libraries should continue to provide a high level of customer service to current library patrons.
    -Librarians should maintain their skills, stay up to date on best practices, and keep current on upcoming research initiatives of patrons.
  5. Saving time is a high priority for library patrons.  Time saved in finding/gathering/sorting information and providing information about new resources or information they would not otherwise have found top the list of why libraries are important to respondents. 
    -Network libraries should market existing services that are known time-savers and let patrons know when to seek assistance from the library (e.g. if you spend X minutes searching without success, contact your librarian).
    -The Library Network should investigate and evaluate additional library services that save time for users, including one-on-one research consultations and regularly scheduled search updates.
  6. EPA’s electronic library services such as Desktop Library, National Library Catalog, and NSCEP digital repository are perceived as essential to respondents’ work activities and received high marks for value, quality, and ease of use. Respondents also indicated they rely heavily on EPA-generated information/data for their work activities.
    -The Library Network should continue to refine current tools and adjust as needed to meet evolving patron needs.
  7. Respondents expressed a need for a large number and wide variety of additional resources not currently available to them, such as more electronic journals, updates to older materials, and legal and business content.
    -The Library Network should continue to monitor usage of current subscription resources and patron requests, adjusting resources as needs are identified and budgets allow.
    -Network libraries should evaluate collections to identify resource gaps and materials that should be updated.
  8. The most effective way respondents learn about new information sources is from their colleagues, followed by professional associations and EPA library services.  
    -Establishing a “Library Ambassadors” or “Library Champions” program would provide an opportunity to increase outreach to non-users.
    -Network libraries should find ways that encourage patrons to think of the library first as an information resource, making the library an easier route to finding the information they need.
  9. While 96% of respondents report they utilize EPA library services to find information, 60% feel they are successful in seeking information on their own.  Non-EPA Internet resources such as Google Search, Google Scholar, and PubMed, followed by the public-facing EPA website (Internet) and the EPA Intranet, are the sources frequently used by respondents to find information.  It should be noted that when 60% say they are successful seeking information on their own, if they are using the Desktop Library, Google Scholar, PubMed, etc., they are still using the services of the libraries, as those tools have been curated by librarians and purchased for the Desktop Library and/or optimized by EPA librarians to include content to which EPA subscribes.
    -The Network should make an effort to educate users of behind-the-scenes work done by librarians.
    -These results speak to the success of the Library Network’s National Training Program to promote information literacy among patrons.  The use of these specific resources provides additional topics for this training.
  10. The majority of respondents rated the need for library space very highly, indicating that the physical library “space” is important.  They would like to see library improvements such as quiet library space, improved connectivity, the incorporation of collaboration spaces, and a place to explore new technologies (e.g., makerspace, visualization lab, virtual reality).
    -Network libraries planning for renovations/relocation should include innovative applications for collaboration into plans for new space, including those specifically mentioned.
    -Libraries not planning for new space should strive to incorporate suggestions and collaboration options into their current footprint.
  11. The needs assessment survey revealed the need for additional research services for data visualization, text mining, preserving environmental datasets, and providing guidance on publishing. These services are commonly available in academic and other federal libraries, and newer EPA staff are accustomed to seeking assistance from their libraries for support in these areas.
    -The Library Network should identify and assess opportunities for introducing additional research services, including implementation requirements and resources needed. 
    -The Library Network should explore potential collaboration opportunities with offices already implementing visualization and other technologies. EPA employees may not be aware of the full range of resources, service offerings, and skill sets of EPA librarians. Marketing of “alternative skills” of librarians is essential.

If you have questions about the needs assessment project or would like more information, please contact

Information about the previous needs assessment is available here: FY2009 Library Information Needs Assessment