Patron Surveys 101: How to Get Valuable Feedback from Your Community

Dec 5, 2018 | Articles

Understanding what your community members want and how they feel about your current offerings is important as you plan for your library’s future. Not only can gathering feedback help you make better, data-driven decisions about how to best serve your community, but it can help you justify the continuation (or dissolution) of pilot programs, as well as understand where money and time can be best spent.

How do libraries collect this valuable user feedback? Through patron surveys! The data collected by surveys tells the story of your library, its patrons, and their needs. It can validate and shape your library’s strategic direction, as well as help increase your library’s grant funding. Surveys also provide patrons with an opportunity to feel more involved in shaping the future of their library.

Launching a survey can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Read on for tips on how to conduct a successful survey, from selecting the right tool to distributing your survey to community members.

Selecting Your Survey Tool

When considering survey tools, you’ll find that there are many online solutions available, such as SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, and Typeform, and most offer free plans. But keep in mind that free plans often have limitations. You’ll want to consider the following when choosing a tool:

  • How many surveys can you create?
  • How many questions are you allowed to ask?
  • How many responses can you accept?
  • How are results displayed? Can you easily see trends as well as individual responses?

Building Your Survey

To ensure that the data you collect will be easy to analyze while also providing insightful anecdotal evidence, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Ideally, your survey should take about five minutes to complete. This requires being shrewd about what you ask and how you ask it.
  • Decide what type of feedback you are looking to collect and narrow the focus of your questions accordingly.
  • The majority of questions should be multiple choice, but it’s also important to provide patrons the opportunity to expound on your questions by providing an “other” option with space for patrons to answer in their own words.
  • End your survey with a question asking respondents to provide any additional comments or feedback.

Distributing Your Survey

There are many ways to get your survey in community members’ hands:

  • Provide a prominent link in your email newsletter.
  • Include a banner ad on your website with a link to your survey.
  • Promote your survey in social media posts.
  • Place paper copies at the circulation desk or in books placed on hold.
  • Set up an iPad or computer in your branch for patrons to take the digital survey.

Tips for Survey Success

There are a couple of things your library can do right off the bat to ensure a successful survey:

  • Test your survey on a small audience before releasing it to ensure that there are no unclear or leading questions that might confuse patrons or provide inaccurate results.
  • Use incentives to encourage responses; entering respondents in a drawing for a prize is a common tactic. You might also offer chocolates or bookmarks to patrons who complete the survey in your branch.

Ready, Set, Survey!

Are you feeling empowered to learn more about what your patrons think? Demco Software’s free guide, Get Patrons’ Insight on Your Mobile App Plans, has a lot more detail about how to get started with surveys and even features a sample survey for libraries considering adding a mobile app to their community engagement strategy. Download the guide today to learn more!


“Getting Feedback with Patron Surveys: West Custer County Library,” WebJunction
“Giving to Get: Using Contests to Gather Patron Feedback,” Public Libraries Online

Kayla Fargo

As Demco Software's Marketing Director, Kayla champions our efforts to educate public libraries on the need for a robust community engagement strategy. She works alongside our other teams to ensure that Demco Software's solutions effectively complement and amplify libraries' community engagement efforts.