New Mexico State Library

Questionnaires and Surveys

Uses of Questionnaires & Surveys and their Value

Questionnaires and surveys are not required by the state library, but many libraries in New Mexico have found that questionnaires and surveys have the potential to offer an extensive understanding of a community’s needs. By understanding the needs of your community, you will have a valuable tool to help plan the library’s programming and development. Answers to a survey can also provide valuable data to use when approaching granting organizations and/or county and city governments for additional funding. The answers to survey questions can stand as the proof that the community has a library need.

Two warnings on surveys. Firstly don’t expect anywhere near 100%, in fact estimate relatively low responses. Secondly it takes a while to work through the responses. You may try to implement some of the things that come out of the survey quickly, but other suggestions or ideas may take awhile to be acted upon. Surveys are a good idea as they often tell you things that you had no idea people thought about the library and suggestions for services.

Narrow the Survey Focus

Developing the right questions to ask in a survey is one of the most important steps in eliciting community input. A single questionnaire, however, should not try to answer every issue confronting a library. The scope of the questions must be narrowed to encourage community members to complete the entire survey while gathering the most valuable information needed for library decision making.

Select a Target Audience

Once the library has decided on a set of relevant issues for the survey, the work begins on crafting a short survey for the target audience. Depending on the target audience, the survey may be distributed at the library, mailed to community members, or created for patrons accessing the library’s web pages.

Write Survey Questions

No matter who the audience is, it is important that participants take the time to answer every question. For this reason, most library surveys are short, asking between ten and fifteen clearly written multiple-choice questions. The following pages contain a compilation of library survey questions. Pick and choose the questions for your library survey based on the specific information you want to gather from your community. You can use a selection of the following questions to create your own survey, or you can use the following questions as a guide for creating a custom survey specific for the library’s community. When planning the survey distribution strategy, it is important to note that many libraries find it useful to gather information from community members who do not regularly use the library.

When constructing the survey, experts recommend that the personal information in the survey be left to the end in order to keep the participant interested and to avoid suspicion created by personal questions.

Test the Survey

Finally, it will be important to test the survey on a small audience in order to confirm questions are clearly written and correctly interpreted by the target audience.

More Information

Berdie, Doug R. John F. Anderson & Marsha A. Niebuhr. Questionnaires: Design and Use.The Scarecrow Press, 1986.

Lee-Haley, Paul R. The Questionnaire Design Handbook. Paul R. Lees-Haley Associates, 1982.

Online Resources include:

General Questions

How often do you visit the library?
A. At least once a week
B. Once every three weeks
C. Once a month
D. Once every six months
E. Once a year
F. Never

If you have not visited the Public Library in the last year, which of the following reasons describes why?
A. I didn’t have time
B. The library hours were not convenient
C. I buy books and read them at home
D. I get all the information I need elsewhere
E. I get the information I need from the Internet
F. The library is to far
G. The library is only for children
H. In the past I didn’t find what I needed
I. The library would not have what I needed
J. I don’t know where the library is
K. I don’t need a library
L. It’s too difficult for me to get to the library
M. I don’t feel welcome at the library
N. The service at the library isn’t very good
O. The library is not handicap accessible

What are your main reasons for using the Library (check all that apply)
A. To borrow best sellers
B. To borrow other fiction
C. To borrow non-fiction books
D. For reference/research
E. To use the children’s library
F. To use the young adult area
G. To borrow videos, CD’s or audio tapes
H. To use the copy machine
I. To read magazines
J. To read newspapers
K. To use the Internet
L. To get information for a school project
M. To use government publications
N. To attend storyhour or children’s programs
O. To use the computers (non-Internet)
P. To get information for home/car repairs
Q. To get income tax forms
R. To study/work

On your last visit did you find what you were looking for?
A. Yes
B. No
C. Partly

Do you usually find the books and other materials that you are looking for in the library?
A. Always find
B. Sometimes find
C. Rarely find
D. Never find

Mark the reasons that explain why you did not get what you were looking for on your last visit.
A. Item was checked out
B. Library had no material on the subject
C. I could not find the material
D. Staff could not find the material
E. The computers were down
F. The computers were all in use
G. I do not know how to use the computers
H. Staff requested material from another library

Mark all the items that describe the service you received
A. Staff was helpful and pleasant
B. Staff was too busy to help me
C. I did not ask for help
D. Staff did not have the knowledge to help me

How do you find out about what is happening at the library?
A. Friend
B. Teacher
C. Library publications
D. Library staff members
E. Local publications
F. Library web site

Overall, how satisfied are you with library services?
A. Very dissatisfied
B. Dissatisfied
C. Slightly dissatisfied
D. Slightly satisfied
E. Satisfied
F. Very satisfied

Please give us your thoughts on the following areas of service:

Reference Desk
A. Excellent
B. Good
C. Just OK
D. Poor
E. Don’t use

Check-out Desk
A. Excellent
B. Good
C. Just OK
D. Poor
E. Don’t use


Mark all areas in which you would like to see technology improved
A. More computers to access the collection
B. More Internet access
C. More CD-ROM workstations
D. Improved access from home computers
E. Word processing and spreadsheet capability
F. More on-line databases

Please give us your thoughts on the following areas of service:

Availability of Internet Computers
A. Excellent
B. Good
C. Just OK
D. Poor
E. Don’t use

Availability of word processing computers
A. Excellent
B. Good
C. Just OK
D. Poor
E. Don’t use

How long have you been using the library’s online services?
A. Once
B. Less than once a month
C. 1-6 Months
D. 7-12 Months
E. 1-2 Years
F. 3-4 Years
G. More than 4 years

How frequently do you visit the library’s website?
A. This is my first visit
B. Daily
C. Several times a week
D. Several times a month
E. About once a month

Community Assessment

In your opinion, which of the following community services is most beneficial to the community (rank from 1 (the highest) to 6 (lowest))
A. Swimming Pools
B. Parks
C. Arenas
D. Libraries
E. Sports Fields
F. Art galleries/museums

How important is the library as a community service
A. Very important
B. Important
C. Somewhat important
D. Not important

Would you be willing to pay more taxes than you currently do for library services to ensure that library services are maintained and improved?
A. Yes
B. No

What is the best time for you to use the library?

School-year: Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
Morning (9-noon) Afternoon (noon-5pm) Evening (5pm-7pm)
Summer: Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
Morning (9-noon) Afternoon (noon-5pm) Evening (5pm-7pm)

New Building/Building Additions

Mark all the areas in which you think the library can improve
A. More study room
B. More study tables
C. More study carrels
D. More meeting rooms
E. More story hour/ craft space
F. Larger Building

In a new library, which of the following services would you like to see expanded to better serve the needs of our growing community?
A. Quite reading space
B. Computer/Internet stations
C. Community meeting space
D. Book selection
E. Children & Teen activities
F. Audio-Visual material

Do you support funding for the construction of a new library even if it means a new tax? (for this question you may want to state the amount of the possible new tax)
A. Yes
B. No

Collection Development

Mark all area in which you would like to see the collection improved
A. General non-fiction
B. Religion/Philosophy
C. History
D. Science/Technology
E. Health/Medical
F. General Fiction
G. Mystery
H. Science Fiction
I. Romance
J. Western
K. Travel
L. Self Help
M. Biography
N. Arts/Culture
O. Large Print
P. Audio/Video
Q. Magazines/Newspapers
R. Children’s materials

Why do you read books?
A. Pleasure
B. Business
C. School
D. Personal research
E. Self-improvement
F. Other

Are current materials useful, up-to-date, and are services satisfactory
A. Poor
B. Fair
C. Average
D. Good
E. Excellent

What types of fiction do you like to read?
A. Action/adventure/westerns
B. Classics
C. Children’s literature
D. Young adult fiction
E. Fantasy/science fiction
F. Science
G. Health
H. Sports
I. Hobbies
J. Art

What types of magazines do you like to read?
A. News/Media
B. Sports
C. Hobbies
D. Science
E. Health
F. Children’s subjects
G. Young adult subjects
H. Women’s subjects
I. Men’s subjects

What types of newspapers do you like to read?
A. Local news
B. National news
C. Business news
D. Foreign news
E. Sports news

About Patrons

A. Male
B. Female

Your age group
A. 18-29
B. 30-39
C. 40-49
D. 50-59
E. 60 or over

Have you completed
A. 4th grade
B. 5th grade
C. 6th grade
D. 7th grade
E. 8th grade
F. 9th grade
G. 10th grade
H. 11th grade
I. High School
J. Some College
K. 2 years of college
L. College Graduate
M. Postgraduate work (masters or doctorate)

Do you have access to the Internet at home?
A. Yes
B. No

Do you have children in your household?
A. Under the age of 12
B. Between the ages of 13-19
C. No children living at home

Open Ended Questions
Open ended questions should generally be limited, but if you would like to gather community input from a wide range of experiences you may want to consider asking an open ended question at the conclusion of your survey.

Other Comments:

Please list any additions you feel the library could make to its collection of materials and services.

Please report any changes you feel the library should make in its service to the community.

How does the library not meet your expectations?

What do you like best about the library?