Guest Post: Google Docs Forms

Librarians everywhere want to know what their patrons are thinking.  Which titles does the public or campus community want added to the collection this year?  Are they interested in library instruction workshops? How effective was my library instruction anyhow?  Basically, we want to know how we could do a better job with what we are already doing and what we should be doing differently.  How do we often get this information?  Enter the survey.

Many of us already have experience with online survey forms such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang.  Google Docs Forms are a little different in the way they work.  Every form is automatically attached to a Google Docs Spreadsheet, similar to Excel.  When someone fills out a form you have created the data they input is automatically populated to Google Docs Spreadsheet where it can then be viewed or manipulated.

Why would you want to use Google Docs Forms for surveys?

The single best answer is flexibility, but here are a few other details to consider:

  • Google Docs Forms are a free part of the overall Google Docs suite of tools.  There are no subscription fees to deal with.

    Image of how to open a new Googledoc Form.

    Start creating a form in your Googledoc account by selecting "Create new," then click on "Form."

  • Surveys can be quickly and easily created from an individual account.  You don’t have to ask someone else for access to a specialized survey account.  Forms can be created and edited by anyone who has a Google account.
  • Forms can be shared with others.  Do you have multiple people who need to work with the data collected?  You can give access to anyone with an email address to look at and manage data.
  • There are multiple ways in which you can let users access survey forms.  You can send a link or you can use the embed code provided to put the survey on your own web page.
  • Google Docs Forms have a variety of themes that allow you to change the look and feel of your form.  This is especially useful when you are embedding the survey on your own website so that it can match the look of your pages.  Take a look at and fill out the form I created for this blog post that I embedded on a LibGuide here.

The main drawback to Google Docs Forms is that there are less question types to choose from than you would find in some of the other survey tools out there.

Personally, in my role as a librarian for distance and off-campus programs, getting feedback from the library users I serve is especially challenging.  It is not so easy to drop by and have a chat with them, nor are they likely to visit the physical library very often, if ever.  I have found embedding Google Docs Forms on a library website to be a successful way to collect information from students.  Because they are so easy to create I have also begun to use forms to organize personal work tasks.  For instance, I use a form to to enter data on items I want to look at later for collection development.

Google Docs Forms are a great tool to experiment with.  I recommend finding a colleague interested in trying it out with you and experimenting together.

Click here for a step by step getting started tutorial for librarians.

Features to take advantage of

  • Choose a theme that matches your website or the season.

Google form theme image

Example of an embedded form.

  • Manage survey results in a Google Docs Spreadsheet.

Example of form results in a Google spreadsheet

Gabe Gossett is the Librarian for Extended Education and Human Services at Western Washington University.  His professional interests include outreach to distance education students, service-learning in libraries, and for-credit library instruction.  He is currently immersed in a project to expand the use of LibAnswers reference tracking software to all of the library service desks, teaching an online research skills class, and revising a research mentoring service-learning class.

You don’t have to be just a Libtechtalk groupie. Did you know that this blog is looking for guest authors? Contact ctomlinson at to find out how you to o can write about your favorite technologies and how they might be used in academic libraries.

PollDaddy: a fun and easy way to engage students

On the small scale, PollDaddy can be used in the classroom to receive immediate feedback on student understanding. Changing what was once a pop quiz into something more along the lines of a game show.

On the large scale, when making plans for the library’s future, PollDaddy can be used to gather input from patrons. For example, a ten-question survey could provide invaluable information on what students need in a study space and look for when it’s time to take a break. Additionally, simple polls can be used on a continual basis. A poll on the library’s homepage could serve as an informal platform from which to ask users a new question every week. What hours are you most likely to be found in the library? What floor do you nap on? Would you bring your laptop to the library if…?

Click image to link to actual poll.

Click image to link to actual poll.

It’s useful and it’s easy. I was able to register a new account and create this poll in less than 15 minutes. It would have taken only five minutes if I had planned out my question and answers ahead of time.

It’s also flexible. You can choose from several different designs and question types or customize your polls / surveys using CSS. Once your question(s) and the answer options have been entered, PollDaddy generates code that can simply be pasted into your website(s). One poll / survey can be placed on multiple sites and the results entered at each location will be conveniently gathered on your PollDaddy account.

The free account offers unlimited polling and up to 100 survey responses per month for surveys with a maximum of 10 questions. It does not include analysis capabilities. PollDaddy Pro is available for $200 per year. It too offers unlimited polling, allows up to 1,000 survey responses for surveys with any number of questions, removes PollDaddy branding, and includes analysis capabilities such as customized reports, voter location, and removal of repeat votes from the same IP address.

Sign up for a free account . Try it out on your website, blog, social networking profile, etc. Useful for fun and for research, it may become your new favorite tool.