Tuesday, March 17, 2015

White Board Polling

I work at a small library at a small school, so everything we do needs to be the epitome of "bang for the buck." Truth be told, even at bigger libraries and library systems, librarians are expected to pinch every penny. One of the best returns on time invested I've ever gotten is with white board polling. (Not original to me, but I don't remember where I first encountered it so I can't cite my source. My apologies to whomever introduced me to this.) I've been doing this for a while now. I thought it was time to write about it, so here's a quick overview of what we've done and how we approach white board polling.

We try to have fun with it, first and foremost. Here's what we did during a recent cold snap and I know lots of other people recreated it at their libraries:

We balance out our fun/goofy ones (examples are a recent poll pitting chocolate vs. lollipops and further back we asked where everyone was going over a school break) with more serious polls like when we asked for student input on popular magazines to add to our collection:

The plea for Playboy aside, you can see we got great response to this poll, as we do with all the simpler polls where the only response needed is a check mark or a hash nark. This poll did shape our periodical collection - we added the top vote-getters to our annual order.

More recently when we asked for feedback on our new mission statement:

We don't get near the number of responses to substantive questions as we do with simple ones, but the answers we get are just as valuable. This is such an easy way to test ideas that I'm considering doing it with any major changes.

Here are, in no particular order, the rules I use when deciding what to put on our board:
  • Must be interactive;
  • Polls where respondents just put a check mark or a hashmark should be used more frequently than ones with substantive answers (you'll get a higher response rate);
  • Fun polls should be done frequently (we try to have the goofy ones be every other poll);
  • Room for other answers should be given;
  • Polls should be run for a week of classes at most;
  • You need to do something with the results.
Sure, there are times when we need to reach out beyond the walls of the library (and trust me, I did solicit feedback far and wide on our new mission statement), but other times it's fine to tap people who are already using the library regularly and have a vested interest.

I know we aren't the only library to use these polls. Do any of you have advice to add to mine?


  1. I especially like the last rule you listed, "You need to do something with the results" - but what do you do with the results from the funny polls?

    1. We had a "chocolate vs lollipops" poll that will help us decide what kind of candy to stock at the reference desk.

  2. i love this idea! i will have to see how we can do this. we just got some moveable white boards and write announcements/directions on them as needed but i love doing polls. :)

  3. I like this idea a lot and can see how it would work at my tiny library and school. Do you always have a poll running while classes are in session?