Listening and learning: myths and misperceptions about postgraduate students and library support

Shiobhan Alice Smith (University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Antje Lubcke (University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Dean Alexander (University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Kate Thompson (University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Christy Ballard (University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Fiona Glasgow (University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Publication date: 8 August 2019



The University of Otago Library conducted a review of its postgraduate support program in 2018. The purpose of this paper is to report on the findings of a questionnaire and follow up focus group undertaken as part of the review. It highlights postgraduate student preferences for learning about support services, their ideas on marketing these services effectively and the kind of engagement that works best for them.


A questionnaire was developed and deployed in July 2018. It contained 20 questions and was emailed to 2,430 enrolled Otago doctorate and master’s students by the University of Otago (GRS). A total of 564 responded, 391 completing all questions. A follow-up focus group was held in August 2018. Quantitative data were collected and analyzed using Qualtrics software and qualitative data were coded and analyzed using NVivo software.


Respondents highlighted the difficulty they have learning what support services are available to them. In some cases, they also feel a stigma when seeking help because of their status as postgraduate students. They suggest practical ways libraries can better reach out to them. The findings confirm previous literature about the need for libraries to improve marketing of their services to postgraduate students, communicate via supervisors and departments where possible and provide a variety of engagement options.


Before (re)developing postgraduate programs, libraries can gain valuable insights and test assumptions by surveying students.



Smith, S., Lubcke, A., Alexander, D., Thompson, K., Ballard, C. and Glasgow, F. (2019), "Listening and learning: myths and misperceptions about postgraduate students and library support", Reference Services Review, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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