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Eastern Michigan University Library
Undergraduates Evaluate Resources and Services - 2007
During winter term 2007, all EMU undergraduates were invited to participate in an online survey about library resources and services. The library’s survey of undergraduates is a follow up to our 2003 participation in LibQUAL, a national library survey that measured users’ perceptions and expectations of 24 items pertaining to library service quality. Many of the questions in the national survey were too general or ambiguous to draw any useful conclusions so we decided to design our own surveys that would specifically target the concerns and needs of each of our user groups. The first group targeted in 2005 was EMU graduate students followed by a 2006 survey of EMU faculty.
This survey, which was conducted from March to April 2007, drew 647 responses. We are satisfied with the undergraduate response rate as it is comparable to the numbers of respondents in the 2003 LibQUAL survey. Information from the new survey will enable us to actively seek ways to address undergraduate needs and concerns.
Demographics of our Undergraduate Respondents
Based on the university’s count (2006-2007) of 18,245 undergraduate students, the response rate to our survey is approximately 3.5%, with equitable representation (Chart 1) from each of the four class standings.
Of all respondents, 94.3% had full-time status (at least 12 credit hours) and 85.3% were under the age of 26. While 45.4 % of all students who responded live on campus, it is important to note that just a little over ½ of the students (54.6%) live off campus. It is also significant that 35.2 % of the respondents were transfer students. 70% of the students hold a part-time job (on or off-campus) (www.emich.edu/aboutemu/fastfacts) while attending school. This type of information must be taken into account as we strive to meet the information needs of our diverse undergraduate population.
Table 1 provides the percentages of respondents by primary college affiliation, with representation from all five colleges at EMU.
Student representation by College at EMU
College of Business 9.9%
College of Arts and Sciences 49.4%
College of Education 20%
College of Health and Human Services 12.1%
College of Technology 3.7%
Undecided Major 4.9%
Undergraduates were surveyed to identify the types of technology they own (see Chart 2) and use on a regular basis. This information will help library staff identify types of instruction and potential technological access points. For example, over 65.7 % of respondents reported having a high speed Internet connection, so we can assume the majority of students can access the library’s website to search for books and articles. Chart 3 identifies the top 7 technologies they have used more than once in the last month.
Which of the following do you personally own?
Do undergrad students use the Library (in-person and/or electronically)?
The survey reveals that 93.8% of undergrad respondents used the EMU library collections, services, or facilities within the past year. Chart 4 shows frequency of library access by the 607 undergraduate students who have used our collections and/or services within the past year.
- Undergraduates most frequently come to the library to find/use library books (72.5%), study (77.8%) or use computer labs for class work (80.1%).
- 46.6% come to the library to find/use library journals, to use course reserve materials (38.4%), attend a class (22.1%), or consult with a librarian (19.1%).
- The library is also a space for recreational activities such as surfing the Web, email, reading, etc. (57.5%) and to meet/connect with friends (32.9%).
While 93.8% of the respondents use EMU library services, it is important to note 91.3% access library resources electronically. 12.4 % of all respondents also reported taking a distance education class. Due to the demands for time, percentage of transfer students, and the number of students who access resources electronically, our librarians are creating a CD that orientates all new students to the library and its services.
The top two responses of why students do not use our library were that their course work did not require library research (61.5%) or that they used the Internet, excluding the library’s web site, to find information (48.7%). Librarians are collaborating with faculty to incorporate information literacy into the new General Education requirements. We anticipate the number of assignments that require research and use of the library resources will increase over time.
Help with Research and Using the Library
The undergraduate students were asked the following questions:
Question #16 Which of the following have you used or participated in to develop your research skills or knowledge about library resources and services? Check all that apply.
Question #17 Which methods of obtaining help with library research do you think are the most useful? Check all that apply.
Q#16 Participated in to develop research skills
Q #17 Methods found to be most useful
General library tour
Class session led by a librarian during a scheduled class
One-on-one appointment with a librarian
Assistance from a librarian at the Information and Reference desk
Remote communication with a librarian (email, IM, chat, telephone)
Assistance from a librarian while at a public computer in the library
Information on the Halle Library website
Printed guides that describe how to use library resources
Scheduled research training classes that you can attend on a drop-in basis
Help via podcasts, blogs, or video delivered online
The methods undergraduate students have used or participated in to develop their research skills and the methods they find most useful for the most part correlate. While only a little more than 3% of students have scheduled a one-on-one appointment with a librarian, over 19% thought the individual assistance would be helpful. Individual appointments are beneficial and students must anticipate their research needs to allow enough lead-time to make appointments with subject specialist librarians. Reference librarians are available for individual help during regularly scheduled Reference desk hours; over 50% of the undergraduate respondents have received this type of assistance.
Only 11% of respondents indicated that they have used remote communication with a librarian via email, IM, chat or the telephone; however, over 15% thought remote communication could prove helpful. This upward trend correlates with our 50% increased usage of chat reference over the past three years.
While only 12.5% of students have received help from a librarian while at a public computer in the library, 23.6% thought this assistance would be beneficial. Starting with the 2007-2008 academic year, reference librarians will implement a pilot program offering roving reference assistance during peak hours when we typically receive the largest number of questions.
Over 18% of respondents reported using printed guides that describe how to use library resources and 25% thought such guides would be helpful. These guides may have been obtained during a library instruction class or via the library’s website http://caxton.emich.edu/guide. There are over 90 different subject and class research guides to assist students.
Even though undergraduate students reported high use of technology on a daily basis, with over 79% using social networking such as My Space, Facebook, etc. and 69.6% using online videos (YouTube, Google video, etc.) on a monthly basis, only 10.9% would be interested in getting help via podcasts, blogs or videos delivered online.
163 respondents expressed opinions about the quality of our help with research and using the library. An overwhelming number of respondents reported excellent service by the librarians and staff. Here is a representative sample:
- “I don’t know what I would do without you people. You all have been a valuable resource to my ongoing studies. By giving me ideas, guiding me through the information and actually finding it for me sometimes, has made a difference in my studies.”
- “I received help from Halle indirectly; a professor for a class of mine referred us to an excellent page put together by a librarian, which I visit almost daily.”
- “The staff in the library are very nice and helpful. I haven’t used any online help because I find the website very confusing and have difficulty finding ways of looking for what I’m looking for. I really don’t like the whole EMU website very much…it could be much better.” (Note- The EMU website and the Halle Library website are currently under review)
- “I have found the librarians to be extremely helpful. Their smiling faces make it a joy to approach the information desk. With many classes a semester, sometimes I just need an extra hand to help give direction and I’m off again toward my goal of graduation.”
- “I have been to other universities and the librarians are never as helpful as the ones here at Eastern. Our database network is so large, I usually can get all of my research for a paper off of that.”
- “Very nice and not only help you find the information, but teach you how to find it yourself the next time.”
- “There was one time that I needed help with an online journal article that I could not access for some reason. Instead of just telling what the problem was, they went through step by step and showed me everything I needed to do for next time. It really helped for the next time I ran into the same problem.”
- “I have barely used the library, but from what I’ve heard from my friends, the library does a great job at providing help/assistance.”
The 2003 LibQUAL survey did not adequately distinguish between books and journals or between paper and electronic resources. This survey, like the Faculty and Graduate Student Surveys, has separate sections for books and journals, with additional breakdowns by format, making it easier to determine what library users think about the quality of our resources and the ease of finding, accessing/locating and using them.
With a flat acquisitions budget and escalating serial costs, we need to be more cognizant of the collection usage preferences of our patrons in order to achieve the maximum cost/benefit ratio when allocating monies. We encourage faculty to be part of our collection development process, both in terms of suggesting books and journals to order and if budget cuts dictate, journals to cancel.
According to the survey, undergraduates are most likely to turn to the World Wide Web very frequently or frequently (73.3%) to help identify books and journals needed for their course work. This is followed by the library’s online databases (57.6%), professors/teachers (51%), library’s online catalog (46.7%), fellow students or friends (35%), library’s print indexes, bibliographies, reference books (31.6%) and at the tail end, librarians (16.3%).
Even though 51.6% of all respondents have asked for assistance at the reference desk, only 16.3% indicated that they used a librarian to help identify the books and journals needed for their course work. This could be due to the fact that 89.7% of the survey respondents reported that it was very easy or somewhat easy to search for books in the library’s online catalog.
Compared to other resources, 60.3% of the respondents thought books were most important or very important to their major field of study and felt that our book collections met their course work needs to a great or moderate extent (73.8%).
Over 76.9% of the respondents have used the library’s books and are generally satisfied with locating and using books in paper format.
30% of the undergraduate student respondents have used the library’s electronic books; however, when asked which format they would prefer to use, 60.8% reported paper format, 20.6% electronic format and 18.6% did not have a preference.
The mission of the library’s collection development program is to provide resources necessary to meet the curricular needs of the educational programs. 207 respondents made recommendations for book purchases. Many of the suggestions were general in their specific major/area of study. It is interesting to note that 38 of the suggestions asked for current fiction to read for recreation. As 45.4% of students live on campus, it is understandable that these students would turn to our library for non-research related reading. The Library will order popular titles that support the curriculum. For titles not ordered, students are able to interlibrary loan books from libraries throughout Michigan using the MelCat ILL system. EMU students, who live on campus or in the city of Ypsilanti, also have borrowing privileges at the Ypsilanti District Library, located less than a mile from campus.
Here is a representative sample of the comments:
- “I think you should buy more New York Times best sellers, NPR recommended books”
- “Children’s books”
- “Required course textbooks for each class”
- “I feel that the library has a good collection and if it keeps building on the already wide selection of subjects it will be doing well”
- “Classic novels”
- “TEXT BOOKS PLEASE! And more physics/math related books. Also, why not more histories/non-fiction for enjoyment purposes”
- “I would like to see more of the new fictional books so I can read for recreation, not just studying.”
- “Environment (recycling, clean energy, etc.)”
- “Personal investing”
All together, 148 respondents took the time to comment about the library’s book collection. A few of the students mentioned the difficulty of switching from a public or school library to an academic library that uses the Library of Congress classification system and retains a percentage of the books in storage. Students also mentioned frustration with books that have been identified as “missing” or “lost”. Missing books were also a problem mentioned by graduate students and faculty in earlier surveys. In response to those comments, we have improved the search process for lost/missing books. Patrons can now place a search request and will receive an email response within five days. If the book is not found within five days, the patron is advised to either consult with a reference librarian to find comparable material or to request the material through interlibrary loan. This past year the library completed an inventory and identified all “missing” and “lost” books. Librarians are evaluating these titles and will consider replacement of missing and lost books in light of curricular needs.
Sample of comments made about the book collections include:
- “I like how teachers can put books on reserve for us at the library and we can go in anytime and use them as to having to buy the book, it saves me lots of money”
- “Decent but dated”
- “The research collections are VERY good, I would just like to see some of the newer fiction books as well”
- “It’s nice that the library owns so many books, but having them separated from the students is strange and sometimes inconvenient”
- “Missing or Lost books should be replaced more often”
- “Some of the organization on the shelves is very confusing. Many times I cannot figure out where my book is without a librarian’s help.”
- “While I understand and respect the fact that this is a University Library, more diversity in fictional content would be nice.”
- “I enjoy seeing the book displays near the stairs. The topics change frequently and exhibit the variety of books in the Library.”
- “From what I’ve seen, a good collection. I have yet to completely dive into it, but the little bit that I have used is good.”
- “Good variety of books, just very difficult to find. Very used to the Dewey decimal system, I suppose.”
- “I have found some helpful books in the collection for math and science. In literature, it seems as if there are limited topics in each author, with not enough range of subjects.”
- “EMU’s Library is much better than the University I transferred from, it is definitely should be a selling point towards getting students to come to EMU.”
83.4% of respondents reported that journals were most, very, and somewhat important to their field of study. 67.7% indicated that our journal collections meet their course work needs to a great or moderate extent. As with books, respondents indicated that it is very or somewhat easy to search for journals in the library’s online catalog (87.3%).
Only 31.6% of respondents have used journals in paper format, while 69% have used electronic journals. The majority of respondents are either very satisfied or satisfied with the various aspects of accessing and using electronic journals (Chart 6). Using any computer with Internet access, our students can take advantage of full text availability for thousands of journals and our SFX Find Text Plus software, which allows simultaneous searching across multiple databases to locate the desired article.
It is interesting to note that in last year’s survey, over 85 % of the faculty reported relying very frequently or frequently on Internet search engines such as Google to initiate the information search process, followed by the library’s online databases (77%) and the library’s online catalog (65%). In sharp contrast, the Graduate Student Survey ranked online databases first in frequency of use (92%), the online catalog second (72%) and Internet search engines third (66%). Undergraduates are most likely to turn to the Internet very frequently or frequently (73.3%) to help identify books and journals needed for their course work, followed by the library’s online databases (57.6%), professors/teachers (51%), and the library’s online catalog (46.7%).
Today’s incoming freshmen value the immediacy of information and our speculation for undergraduate students to turn to the Internet to help identify sources for their course work was confirmed. Most students perceive themselves to be more computer and research savvy than they really are. They know how to instant message, download music, and search the Internet (see Chart 3 above), but are less proficient at mastering the skills necessary to conduct scholarly research. To confuse matters, library databases use web-based technologies and have the same look and feel as Internet search engines and students become confused with the plethora of indexes and databases and the intricacies of locating articles. These issues were articulated in comments made regarding the journal collection.
- “The search system is confusing. Many times I thought you had a journal in print on the shelves. You had the journal, but not the volume my article was in. I would search forever and finally was told you didn’t have it. This frustrated me so much I try to search for online journals only.”
- “I would like to use the electronic journals but find it confusing to access the information I want. It’s not clear exactly how to get the journal once I have found it.”
- “hard to find certain subjects if you don’t use the right words.”
- “difficult to navigate”
- “There are hardly any online journals. I have a hard time understanding the system and it is very limited”
As with books, many of the 105 recommendations for journals were general requests for additional journals in their specific major/area of study. A few respondents asked for periodicals the library already owns, such as Time and Newsweek. Students may not be aware of their location in the library as a small collection of popular magazines is held in reserve behind the circulation desk to limit loss.
Representative sample of the 92 comments made about the journal collection:
- “Journals aren’t a big thing in my major as of right now”
- “I’m going into Special Education, and there has not been anything so far that I have not been able to find through the journals already available.”
- “I can usually find what I need. My needs are limited so what I do need to find is typically available.”
- “I only use journals for assigned projects.”
- “I love, love, that you can access them off campus.”
- “Often articles I need come up in searches but our library doesn’t have the article.”
- “These are the easiest resources to find within the library.”
- “There are extensive ways to piece together information from the vast amount of journals.”
- There is a lot of information to be found. I’ve tried using the paper/microfilm before, but I’ve found that the electronic ones are the most well organized and easier to use even though I prefer paper.”
- “I absolutely love the availability of academic journals through the EMU library and consider it to be one of the perks of being a student at a university. The journal collections are easy to navigate through, although, a more concise description of what subject the journal covers would be beneficial.”
- “The journal collections are very broad, but also straight to what you need. When you search for what you need, you pretty much can always find what you want.”
It comes as no surprise that only 11.4% of respondents have used the library’s microform journals as more full text articles become available online. Those few brave souls willing to venture to the library’s second floor were satisfied with the layout and organization of the microform collections and found the microform reader/printers easy to use.
It is extremely interesting to note that slightly over 24% of respondents did not have a preference for journal format (Chart 7). Perhaps these students have not been required to use journals in microform format, or have experience using different types of formats already. Considering the ease of online access and that 54.6% of survey respondents reside off campus, it is understandable that the majority of students would have a strong preference for electronic access to journals.
Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery
Interlibrary loan (ILL) service supports students, faculty, and staff in all colleges and programs. Our ILLiad system provides real-time tracking and information for users and highly automated, streamlined processes for ILL staff. During 2006-2007, elapsed time from submission of a request to being notified the item is available was typically 6.54 days for articles and 10.62 days for books. Our exceptional fulfillment speed can be attributed to two factors, 1) we deliver nearly all articles electronically; and 2) we have a well-trained and competent ILL staff. During 2006-2007, the library filled approximately 95% of all valid requests.
Of the 16.1% (104) of respondents who have used interlibrary loan and/or document delivery service, 77.8% were very satisfied or satisfied with the service. Students commented they were pleased to learn most articles could be delivered electronically and appreciated the speed of the ILL service.
22.2% (23) of the respondents were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the service. 10 students commented that they were not made aware when their item was available. These comments may be related to a system failure experienced in March 2007 after a required ILLiad system upgrade. The notification emails were not getting out, and unfortunately, the software was not clearly signaling us that there was a systematic problem. We finally became aware of the problem and fixed it in April. There are occasionally EMU campus email problems as well. For example, during the 2006/2007 academic year, there were problems with batch emails from EMU being blocked as potential viruses or spam and not being forwarded from MyEmich to commercial email accounts. Now the library periodically spot-checks to ensure messages are getting through.
Students also commented that they thought the ILL service took too long. The majority of ILL requests are processed within a couple of hours after being submitted. As with individual research assistance, students need the foresight to anticipate their information needs and allow enough lead-time for ILL requests.
The following comments are a sample representation about our interlibrary loan and document delivery system:
- “It was honestly faster than I had expected. Good job.”
- “ILL makes the world my library. I have yet to request anything that could not be found somewhere in your consortium.”
- “I was not aware it existed!”
- “It’s okay but too slow.”
- “Many times I have not received the articles or journals I requested, nor have I received any notice that the requested items are not available. When I have received them, I have been satisfied, but actually receiving them seems to be a hit or miss situation.”
- “Sometimes they don’t email you when the requested material arrives.”
- “It seems very well organized, and they do a good job of telling you how your requests are being processed. It was pretty easy to start using. The only thing that should be made a little more obvious is that you really need to put in your requests in 1-2 weeks before you need the materials.”
- “They got the information I needed from a journal we did not have. It was excellent and I was very pleased. Most students don’t know what ILL is or even if it’s available at EMU.”
Undergraduates were questioned about the responsiveness, courtesy, and knowledge of library staff at the following service points: Circulation/Reserves, Client Services, Information Services/Main Reference Desk, Maps, Periodicals/Government Documents, Library Administration and Archives. Undergraduates reported high satisfaction rates at all seven service points. The survey also asked whether the number and hours of the service desks were adequate for the needs of undergraduates. Approximately 96% of the respondents feel that the library has enough service points and 93% are satisfied with the hours of service. Undergraduates reported high satisfaction rates at Maps, Periodicals/Government Documents, Library Administration and Archives, however, approximately 50% of the respondents indicated they had not used these service points. The following charts (Charts 8, 9 and 10) show levels of satisfaction with the help received at the three main service points.
Number of Service Desks
- “There needs to be more help available on the upper levels of the library. It needs to be more clear what services each desk provides and needs to be presented in a more attractive and welcoming way.”
- “If you are on the third floor it is kind of a pain to go down to the first (floor) to get help and then back up especially if you are in a hurry.”
- “The service desk location is ok, however some times (i.e. during exam periods) there is a longer line for help…It may take too long to get help from the Librarian.”
- “I think there should be a reference desk of each floor and department.”
Hours of Service Desks
- “The library should be open 24/7.”
- “I love that the library adjusts the hours according to the time of the year, such as during finals it being open longer. Very good notion.”
- “It would be nice if the library were to open at 7:00 instead of 7:30, that way last minute changes could be made for 8:00 classes. (Note-The Student Center computing lab is open 24 hours a day during Fall and Winter terms)
- “very nice people who are polite, willing to help, know what they are doing”
- “Everyone is very knowledgeable, and if they don’t know something, they will find someone who can help.”
- “The information desk employees are among the most friendly and helpful people at this university.”
- “Some librarians are more helpful than others.”
- “Pretty good customer service throughout the library from the Paradox to the computer labs to circulation…I think I had a somewhat negative experience at Client services…I didn’t feel treated as respectfully as I should have.”
- “Very helpful throughout. I think a lot of students just don’t know they are so available and helpful.”
- “No complaint. No commendations either.”
- “If you’re unsure about where to go to for help, it’s very hard to find someone to answer your question. Also, sometimes the students working at the check-out desk are grumpy and slow.”
- “Some of the student workers are a little rude and don’t like to help.”
- “From what I have seen, the staff in/at the library are there to help- and that’s what they do.”
- “The library service has always been very helpful and very knowledgeable. However, sometimes it may be hard to locate someone to help when you are somewhere other than the ground floor or main floor.”
- “The other day I was wandering and looking a little lost and one of the library workers stopped me and asked if I needed help… it was nice and refreshing.”
Library Equipment and Facilities
On average, 81.73% of the undergraduate respondents were either very satisfied or satisfied with library facilities and equipment. Chart 11 identifies the specific library equipment and facilities questioned in the survey.
It is interesting to note that of the 187 comments regarding library equipment and facilities, 39 comments (20.8%) were about the computers on the second and third floors, 35 comments (18.7%) were about the printers and 28 comments (15%) dealt with the noise level on the second and third floors. During the summer of 2007, computers on the second and third floors were refreshed with newer computers and this should help with some of the concerns raised in the survey. Several new printers have been ordered and they will print at a faster rate than the old ones. To simplify the management and services of computer public workstations on the second and third floors of the library, these computers have been transferred to the supervision of ICT.
It is a constant balancing act to juggle between users needs for quiet study in the library versus their need to converse with each other for collaborative study or receive cell phone calls. Over the years, we have introduced designated quiet study and cell phone areas to address this issue. We continue to monitor and modify our policies to meet the needs of our users. Last semester, table tents were placed on all tables and desks reminding patrons of designated areas for cell phone usage to assist with reducing noise levels in the library. There are additional signs in collaborative study rooms to remind people of the purpose of those rooms, as well as supplementary signs to indicate quiet study areas in the library. Periodically, we have library staff patrol the building to implement library policies. If you have a concern with the noise levels in the building, we would appreciate a call to Client Services at extension x2199. Building phones are located on each floor by the central stairwell.
Representative sample of comments made about the library’s equipment and facilities:
- “it can get very loud in the library especially on the second floor where people talk on their phones while they are on the computers.”
- “This is a very nice library to spend time in. It meets all of my needs whether it be finding a quiet study place, a computer to research with, or a place just to take a break.”
- “Too much cell phone use, problems with courtesy of other patrons.”
- “Printers are often backed up or not working well.”
- “The computers aren’t horrible but they aren’t all up to date and sometimes some computers don’t have all the programs they should have on them.”
- “Need more computers and printers that can handle full loads. Many times I have to wait 15+ minutes for what I printed.”
- “I wish there were some way to regulate the amount of sound that occurs on the 2nd and 3rd floors as I come to library to work without distractions.”
- “Satisfactory for the most part. More computers would be helpful.”
- “The study spaces, especially the group study rooms are often taken by a single student. I am not comfortable asking them to leave.”
- “it’s a little bit overcrowded sometimes, but that is to be expected of a university of this size, this is a great facility, and use it almost daily.
Our survey results in the 2003 LibQUAL evaluation impressed upon us the need to develop a continuous assessment plan that would keep us actively engaged with our users and informed about their needs and concerns. We received disappointing customer service ratings from all users in the 2003 LibQUAL survey, but the general nature of the questions made it impossible to identify where problems were occurring. In addition, our facility shares space with several heavily used operations, which the library does not manage, such as Multimedia Services and the ground floor computer lab.
Following LibQUAl, we first surveyed graduate students, as they were identified as the most dissatisfied group (winter 2005), followed by faculty (winter 2006) and the undergraduate students (winter 2007) to help identify specific areas of concern. In the past three years, staffing changes were made and customer service training has been provided for all library employees in the building. The groups who responded to the most recent surveys have recognized these improved efforts and satisfaction rates have risen significantly.
In all four surveys our users have expressed a desire to independently access information both onsite and remotely. Thus, the importance of the work done by library technical services and network/systems staff to ensure and improve upon the accuracy, availability, and ease of use of our online catalog and electronic resources cannot be overemphasized.
While electronic format is definitely preferred for journals, over 60% of respondents in the three user group surveys still prefer using books in paper form. This information will be taken into consideration when acquiring library materials and resources. Gaps in the library collection for research needs can be filled by interlibrary loan.
In response to concerns expressed in the surveys, we have:
- Provided customer service training
- Refreshed equipment (computers and printers)
- Streamlined interlibrary loan operations
- Implemented a system for book search requests
- Increased the number of information literacy classes taught by librarians
- Improved the library’s online catalog
- Solicited book and journal input from faculty
- Created subject and class research guides to assist students with their research
- Updated systems computer software
While the library has made substantial improvements in customer service, resource acquisitions, and equipment and facilities management, we will continuously strive to efficiently and courteously meet the information needs of our patrons. Further assessment in the years to come will help us reevaluate our services and keep the library focused on the needs of our patrons. Thanks to all those who participated in the surveys and please continue to give us your feedback.