The University Libraries recently completed a fourth round
(2001, 2002, 2004, 2006) of a survey designed to assess and improve library
services, change organizational culture, and market the library. The instrument
used was an email questionnaire that evolved from a conceptual model based
on the SERVQUAL instrument from the service industry and offered by the Association
of Research Libraries (ARL)..
The ARL and Texas A&M University Libraries partnered to develop, test,
and refine LibQual+TM. This effort was supported in part by a grant from the
Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE).
The goals of LibQUAL+TM are to:
- Foster a culture of excellence in providing library service
- Help libraries better understand user perceptions of library service quality
- Collect and interpret library user feedback systematically over time
- Provide libraries with comparable assessment information from peer institutions
- Identify best practices in library service
- Enhance library staff members’ analytical skills for interpreting and acting on data
The LibQUAL+TM survey measures library users’ perceptions of service quality and identifies gaps between desired, perceived, and minimum expectations of service. The final 22 LibQUAL+ items used in the 2006 survey were developed through several iterations of quantitative studies involving a larger pool of items. The items were identified following qualitative research interviews with student and faculty library users at several different universities. LibQual+TM is not just a list of 22 standardized items. The survey also includes a comments box soliciting open-ended user views. Participating libraries find that access to user comments can be one of the most useful devices in understanding why users answer as they do and what changes they wish to see.
As of spring 2006, more than 700 libraries have participated in the LibQual+ survey. These include academic, public, law, hospital, and health sciences libraries that participated through consortia or independently. LibQual+ has expanded internationally, with participating institutions in Canada, the U.K. and other European countries as well as Australia and South Africa. It has been translated into several languages, including French, Swedish, Dutch, Afrikaans, German, Danish, Finnish, and Norwegian.
The number of institutions participating in LibQual+ in 2006 was 298 which includes 45 ARL libraries. The results measure three areas: Service Affect (9 items), Information Control (8 items), and Library as Place (5 items).
At the University of Colorado, Boulder, the survey was sent to email addresses for a random sample of 1200 faculty, 1500 graduate students, and 2500 undergraduates for a total of 5200. Subjects were contacted with one introductory message sent prior to the survey and three follow-up reminders sent weekly. 11% of our sample completed the survey. Of the 544 respondents, approximately 23% were undergraduate, 41% graduate, 34% faculty, and 2% staff.
LibQUAL+TM 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 users’ expectations. From the survey results, it is possible to compare how our users perceive our services to the national data set of how users in all ARL institutions perceive their services in relation to their expectations.
In all of the three categories mentioned above, the CU-B Libraries more than met our users’ expectations. On a scale of 1-9, our users rated their minimum level of service for the combined three categories at 6.24 and their desired level of service at 7.78. Their perceived rating of our actual performance in the three areas was 6.58. Thus our overall performance exceeded expectations by 0.34.
Minimum Perceived Desired Perceived-
Affect of Service
6.02 6.69 7.56 +0.67
Library as Place
5.65 5.95 7.31 +0.30 Information Control 6.76 6.81 8.24 +0.05
The first of the categories, Affect of Service, refers to our interactive relationship or, in other words, our public service desk interaction such as reference, instruction, circulation, Interlibrary Loan, etc. The desired rating was 7.56 with a perceived performance of 6.69 which exceeded the minimum expectation of 6.02 by 0.67. Of interest is the fact that there is a difference of only 0.87 between perceived service and desired service. That indicates that we are close to serving as well as anyone could want. In the written comments received, 11% were positive comments about library staff.
In the Library as Place category, which rates physical settings and facilities, the difference between the perceived performance of 5.95 and the minimum of 5.65 was 0.30. The desired rating was 7.31. Here, the difference, 1.36, is larger between desired mean and perceived mean for Library as Place. This number very likely represents those whose comments were about the need for better quality spaces in the Norlin facility. Such comments represented 15% of the written comments made.
The third category of Information Control, which rates ease of use as well as the adequacy of the library’s collections, showed a minimum expectation of 6.76 with a perceived performance of 6.81 which yields a difference of 0.05. The desired rating was 8.24. The largest difference between perceived and desired was in this category—1.43. The collections of the University Libraries, both print and electronic, have taken many hits lately due to decreases of the materials budget, and this number may reflect our patrons’ dissatisfaction with the results of cuts both in serials budgets and monograph budgets. In fact, 20% of all written comments were concerning inadequate resources.
Data concerning two kinds of library use by patron type yielded some very interesting results related to Personal Control. A large majority of faculty, 87.09%, use the library’s electronic resources from home or office daily or weekly. Almost as many graduate students, 84.75%, do the same. However, a smaller portion of undergraduates, 60.32%, choose to use the library in this manner. Slightly more undergraduates, 62.01%, prefer using the library on premises daily or weekly. A comparable proportion of faculty and graduate students also use the library on premises daily or weekly, 60.75% and 63.49% respectively.
This survey also contained questions for three areas of general satisfaction. Patrons were asked to rate on a scale of 1-9 their levels of general satisfaction, with 9 representing “strongly agree.” Scores show that CU-B, while having room for improvement, still serves its patrons well.
Satisfaction with Treatment
Satisfaction with Support
6.48 7.02 Overall Quality of Service 6.76 7.19
LibQUAL+TM is a registered trademark of the Association of Research Libraries.