The University Libraries recently completed a user satisfaction survey. The instrument used was an email questionnaire developed by the staff at the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and Texas A&M University. The survey, LibQual, was based on a standard instrument from the service industry entitled ServQual. The project was funded by a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Secondary Education (FIPSE).
LibQual was administered in Spring 2001 at 43 participating institutions, most of whom are members of ARL. The results which measured four areas, Affect of Service (patron/staff interaction), Library as Place (physical environment), Personal Control (ease of use), and Access to Collections (materials and holdings) may be compared to those at a number of other libraries.
At the University of Colorado, Boulder, the Office of Institutional Research assisted us in the compilation of a random sample of email addresses for 600 faculty, 600 graduate students, and 900 undergraduates. A slightly smaller number were actually contacted with two introductory messages sent prior to the survey and two follow-up reminders. 17% of our sample completed the survey.
LibQual allows us to compare user perceptions of service delivery against user expectations, so that the final scores indicated how well CU Libraries do in meeting our user's expectations. From the survey results, it is possible to compare how our users perceive our services against the national data set of how users in 42 other institutions perceive service in relation to their expectations.
In all of the four categories mentioned above, the CU-B Libraries did not meet our users' expectations. On a scale of 1-9, our users rated their minimum level of service for all four categories at a 6.32 and their desired level of service at a 7.85. Their perceived rating of our actual performance in the four areas was 6.07 with a resulting gap of 0.25 between their range of expectations and their perception of our actual performance.
The first of the categories, "Affect of Service", refers to our interactive relationship or in other words, our public service desk interactions such as reference, circulation, Interlibrary Loan, etc. The minimum expectations for this category were 6.35 and the desired rating was 7.86 with a perceived performance of 6.26 leaving a very small gap of 0.09.
The largest gap between our user's desired performance and their perception of actual performance was in the "Library as Place" category which rates physical settings and facilities. Here the gap was 0.45, as patron's perceived minimum level of expectation was 5.65 and the survey respondents' view of our actual performance was 5.20.
The third category of "Personal Control" measures was how well our survey respondents feel able to navigate the library system on their own. The gap between their perceived minimum service (6.79) and their rating (6.60) was 0.18, the second smallest gap of the four categories.
In the area of "Information Access" for resources and collections, our users also found a large gap. Their minimum level of service was rated at 6.40 and their perceived rating of our performance was 5.97, leaving a gap of 0.43.
The results from the 43 institutions showed a similar, though not identical, zone of tolerance. The major difference in the results, showed that in all four categories respondents' view of their libraries' performance fell within their range of expectations. While the performance ratings fell toward the lower end of the range of expectations, the perceived performance did meet user expectations. Whereas at CU-B, respondents clearly feel that their Libraries are not meeting their expectations.
Reasons for the gaps between our users' perceived levels of desired performance and our actual level are impossible to determine from the survey. More in-depth study of the data may provide further insight at a later time. It seems clear that the CU Libraries are suffering in the eyes of its users. The Norlin Library has not had a major renovation since 1974, the Libraries have suffered five years of below-inflation increases to the book budget, they have had no increase in staffing in 9 years, and they have thus struggled to provide adequate levels of service, materials, ease of use, and welcoming place that our patrons desire.
The Libraries are currently undergoing an extended program review and the Internal Review Committee Report and a Blue Ribbon Panel Report have identified many of the same problems as those addressed by the LibQual survey. A strategic plan is being developed by the Libraries and after its acceptance and implementation, it is hoped that the major issues identified by this survey will begin to be addressed. As part of the Libraries' assessment program, the LibQual instrument will continue to be used to measure its performance.
For further information, contact Susan Anthes at 492-6897 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LibQUAL+(TM) is a registered trademark of the Association of Research Libraries.