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Online library services 2022: how has using Library resources and services helped you?

30 May 2023

Susan Isaac

We know that the online resources and services provided via the Library are a valued membership benefit, but less about why members use them, or what the impact of that usage has on their work. Library staff monitor the usage of the online resources, but this only gives us half the story. So, at the end of 2022, we ran a survey asking members to tell us about their experience of using our online resources and services.

In the last four years, the Library has improved and promoted the online resources and services using feedback gathered during a previous survey to guide decision making.

  • Introduced online access to JBJS (American), Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma, Journal of Urology, Neurosurgery, CORR and Dental Update
  • Increased ebooks access via LWW Health Library: Surgery and LWW Health Library: Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Added new clinical databases HMIC (Health Management Information Consortium) and TripPro
  • Purchased Visible Body: Human Anatomy Atlas 2020 (3D anatomy and physiology resource)
  • Launched new Library Discovery tool, Surgical Library, developed to enhance your search experience
  • Joined SCONUL Access scheme providing access to study space via a network of libraries across the UK and Ireland

These improvements have impacted survey responses from the most recent survey, with an increase in satisfaction levels and a more positive tone to the comments generally. While the number of responses isn’t statistically significant, the results echo other forms of feedback the Library receives. The survey provided data from a mix of multiple choice or checkbox questions and free text comments. The 102 free text comments form the richest results of the survey. We now have a much fuller picture on why the resources are used and how they help members in caring for patients, teaching activities and research.

We have answered the majority of respondents who gave us feedback, to give context or advice on their comments. This engagement was received positively and in some cases we were able to solve difficulties that some members had experienced.

Using e-resources: what, why and measuring impact

The responses reflect the e-resources usage we monitor across the year, but the comments also gave us much needed context. The e-journals are among the most popular resources but it’s great to know that Acland’s is helping candidates to prepare for and pass the MRCS exam. Keeping up to date, exam preparation, teaching preparation and research for presentation or publication are the most common reasons members use online resources. Many of the respondents also used resources for patient care or to develop guidelines or support audit.

The impact of using library e-resources can best be shown by sharing some of your comments:

I used Acland human anatomy for my part B MRCS and it helped me ace the exam. Furthermore, guidelines and updates on medical world help me improve the quality of work I do.

Read about the anatomy of the inguinal canal and associated structures, when we had a couple of patients listed for elective Inguinal Hernia surgery. This had a great positive impact on my operative abilities while assisting in the above cases.

It helped me in managing and proper prescription of IV fluids according to new guidelines.

I have used library resources to guide trainees either with help in their publication journey or to plan updated lectures on various topics. I have used library resources to change practice based on evidence obtained herein.

Chart showing e-resources used

“In the past year, which library e-resources have you used?”

Chart showing how eresource use impacted work

“In the last year, has using information provided via library e-resources had an impact on your work? If so, which areas have benefited?”

Using online services: what, why and measuring impact

In 2022, 66 Specialty Updates were produced, readership ranges from 400 to 4,000 across 11 specialty areas. Library staff carried out 83 literature searches and answered 403 enquiries. Members are clearly able to link their use of these services to outcomes in their working lives when asked to describe their impact across a number of areas:

Particularly impressed with the outreach towards members through the "ask a librarian", the document delivery and the literature search request functions. The speciality updates are very useful too.

Able to incorporate findings of literature search into summary on a particular procedure which was presented to department.

Altered referral pattern by articles on PRP [Platelet-rich plasma].

Chart showing online services used

“In the past year, which online library services have you used?”

Chart showing the impact of online services on work

“In the last year, has using information provided via online library services had an impact on your work? If so, which areas have benefited?”

Satisfaction with using online resources and services

The majority of members are satisfied with their experience of using the Library online resources. Far fewer negative comments were received in the 2022 survey comments about online resources or difficulties experienced accessing them compared to the previous 2018 survey. This suggests that new resources the Library have made available, the work put into targeted promotion and tweaks to the login process has been felt by the membership. Examples of a cross section of the comments received:

Staff are helpful and constructive advice is given. [Very satisfied]

I cannot always access selected books/journals [Satisfied]

Not everything easily accessible – esp articles [Dissatisfied]

Chart showing satisfaction with e-resources and online services

“Overall, how would you rate your satisfaction with using library e-resources and servies during the last year?”

Diagnosing access issues

We are all used to mainstream digital content being just a click away, so it’s understandably frustrating when it isn’t always as easy to access a scientific article. Our online resources are made available by third-party providers who require differing authentication processes to ensure access is only available to those who have subscribed to them. Therefore it is essential that you login on the RCS England website first before attempting to click on a link to an e-resource. We have illustrated help pages on our catalogue pages to guide you, but please contact us if you are having problems at


It is very useful to hear about the resources that you need, creating a wish list to take forward. Our collections team review our journal holdings each year as part of the renewal process, aiming to balance your needs and the allocated budget. We look at usage data and information on attempts to access titles the Library doesn’t subscribe to plus your suggestions. Naturally, we have to also consider the long term financial costs of each subscription as it’s a recurring cost. Sometimes titles are not available due to publisher license restrictions on usage that we cannot accept.

Opening hours

The Members’ Library and Research Room in Lincoln’s Inn Fields reopened at the end of 2021. The survey provided an opportunity to ask about satisfaction with the current pattern of opening hours. Satisfaction with the opening hours is finely balanced with a number of responses requesting extending the times to allow use outside of normal working hours. Examples of comments received:

Evenings so can use for revision after work.

I would like physical access to the library to study on weekends and in the evening via a swipe in membership card.

Friday would be a bonus but Mon-Thu is still very good.

Not relevant to me as I am in Manchester.

Logistically, there are difficulties in extending the opening hours or enabling unsupervised access to the Members’ Library. We are developing flexible solutions to meet your needs. For example, we have trialled opening for extra days to support exam preparation around the Anatomy and Pathology Museum (APM) sessions, allowing candidates space to study and revise in small groups.

Chart showing satisfaction with library opening hours

“The members’ library is currently open 10am-5pm Monday to Thursday. Please tell us how satisfied you are with these hours.”

SCONUL Access scheme

Joining the SCONUL Access scheme has enabled the College to offer study space to members in 177 higher education and specialist libraries across the UK and Ireland. The reciprocal scheme allows us to take advantage of the longer opening hours that the university sector can provide for our members in locations convenient to their homes and workplaces. We’ve already processed 40 applications since joining the scheme in July 2022.

We are very grateful to everyone who took the time to share their experience of using e-resources, services and opening hours with us and to suggest practical improvements. Congratulations to the lucky member who won the Amazon voucher. Keep looking at our web pages to see how we are working to improve Library to benefit all categories of membership and please send us your enquiries or feedback to

Susan Isaac, Customer Service Manager

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