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Eastern Michigan University Library
Access to Information: Library Users Speak Up
The 2003 LibQUAL survey consisted of a core group of 25 questions designed to measure users’ perceptions and expectations of library service quality in the following four areas or dimensions: Access to information, Personal control, Affect of service, and Library as place. Respondents were asked to rate on a scale of 1-9 (with 9 being the most favorable) not only their current perceptions of library service quality but to also indicate the minimum levels of service they are willing to accept and the desired levels of service they want to receive. By subtracting the minimum score from the perceived score on any given question, we obtain the service adequacy gap. A positive adequacy gap score indicates that users’ perceptions of our service quality exceed their minimum expectations while a negative score means that users consider our service to be less than acceptable. The service superiority gap is calculated by subtracting the desired score from the perceived score. Again, a positive number reflects very well on our service quality while a negative number reveals how large the gap is between the service users feel they are receiving and the service they desire. In this article, we will examine how the library was judged on the five questions dealing with access to information, noting the differences among EMU user groups and among the different disciplines. (Note: In order to accommodate all types of institutions, the LibQUAL survey used general subject categories which do not correspond uniformly to specific EMU academic departments.)
How successful is the library in providing the following:
Print and/or electronic journal collections I require for my work (799 respondents- 478 undergraduates, 119 graduate students, 157 faculty, 9 library staff, 36 university staff) Chart 1
Apparently it is universally difficult for libraries to fulfill their users’ expectations in this specific area. The Association for Research Libraries, which sponsors LibQUAL, reports that nearly all libraries regardless of collection size are struggling to meet even the minimum level of service users expect here. University staff, library staff and undergraduate respondents do report that their perceptions of the comprehensiveness and scope of our journal collection exceed their minimum requirements. However, among undergraduates, we receive our best marks from freshmen with perceptions of collection quality falling among sophomores, juniors and seniors. Graduate students and faculty respondents believe there are significant gaps between their perceptions of journal coverage and their minimum expectations, with an adequacy gap score of -.46 for graduate students and -.66 for faculty. These three user groups also report very sizeable superiority gaps between what they perceive the quality of our journal collection to be and what they desire it to be.
In nine disciplines, there were more than twenty respondents to at least give us some perspective on whether opinions about journal coverage vary by academic department. Business, Education, and Performing and Fine Arts respondents report that we actually exceed their minimum expectations in this area. Communication/Journalism, Engineering/Computer Science, Health Sciences, Humanities, Science/Math, and Social Sciences/Psychology respondents indicate that their perceptions of our journal collection are below their minimum expectations,with Engineering/Computer Science having the largest adequacy gap of -.65.
Convenient service hours (864 respondents - 528 undergraduates, 121 graduate students, 156 faculty, 9 library staff, 50 university staff) Chart 2
Ironically, although many respondents voiced their dissatisfaction in the LibQUAL comments area concerning the hours the library is open, all of the user groups report that their perceptions of service quality regarding hours did exceed their minimum expectations. Of course, every group except library staff expresses a desire for a level of service quality (longer hours) that exceeds their current perceptions.
The same also holds true across response by discipline, although Communication/Journalism respondents report that their perceptions actually match their desired level of service.
Printed library materials I need for my work (822 respondents - 504 undergraduates, 117 graduate students, 153 faculty, 8 library staff, 40 university staff) Chart 3
Although library staff and university staff respondents believe the print collections exceed their minimum standards, the library fails to satisfy the minimum expectations of undergraduate, graduate student and faculty respondents with adequacy gaps of -.06, -.55 and -.79 respectively. The difference between perceived and desired levels of service is significant too, with graduate students reporting a superiority gap of -2.07 and faculty a gap of -1.90. Likewise the library also fails to meet respondents’ minimum expectations across the nine disciplines we looked at. In Business, Education, and Performing and Fine Arts, library users’ perceptions are only slightly less than their minimum expectations. The harshest scores are from Humanities with an adequacy gap of -.94 and a superiority gap of -2.40 followed by Social Sciences/Psychology with an adequacy gap score of -.60 and a superiority gap of -1.70.
Electronic information resources I need (842 respondents - 512 undergraduates, 117 graduate students, 157 faculty, 9 library staff, 44 university staff) Chart 4
Library staff and university staff respondents again give the library high marks here; in fact, library staff feel that even their desired expectations are being met. Overall our undergraduate students’ perceptions concerning the library’s provision of electronic resources also exceed acceptable service quality. However, freshmen report that we exceed their minimum needs with an adequacy gap of +.78, but the positive gap starts declining each year after that (to +.40 for sophomores, +.10 for juniors and -.29 for seniors). Graduate students and faculty respondents both give the library mean perceived scores of 6.73 which falls below their minimum expectations of 7.06 and 7.25 respectively. Interestingly, for graduate students, their desired level of service for electronic resources is less than the level of service they desire for print resources while just the opposite is true for faculty. Undergraduates desire the same level of service for both print and electronic resources.
Looking at the ratings across disciplines, the library does better with its provision of electronic resources than it does with its collection of print materials. Business, Communication/Journalism and Education respondents report that our service here slightly exceeds their minimum expectations. Respondents in the other six disciplines find our service quality to be less than their minimum needs, with negative adequacy gaps ranging from -.11 for Health Sciences and Social Sciences/Psychology down to -.67 for Engineering/Computer Science.
Timely document delivery/interlibrary loan (562 respondents - 316 undergraduates, 82 graduate students, 130 faculty, 8 library staff, 26 university staff) Chart 5
While undergraduates find that the quality of our service exceeds their minimum expectations by +.17, graduate students and faculty perceptions of our service fall below their minimum expectations by -.30 and -.35 respectively. Library staff and university staff respondents find the quality of this service to exceed acceptable standards.
By discipline, we have evenly divided ratings among the eight areas having more than 20 respondents. Business, Communication/Journalism, Performing and Fine Arts, and Social Sciences/Psychology all find that our service here exceeds their minimum expectations, with adequacy gaps ranging from +.24 for Communication/Journalism up to +.90 for Business. Education, Health Sciences, Humanities, and Science/Math rate our service quality below their minimum standards, with adequacy gaps ranging from -.03 for Education down to -.81 for Health Sciences.
The library received the most negative gap scores in this dimension as well as in the closely related Personal control category, which will be examined in the next issue. However, since many of the questions in these two dimensions are open to varying interpretations, we are attempting to use your written survey comments for clarification. In the winter term, the library will also be holding focus groups with graduate students to learn more about their specific concerns.