Eastern Michigan University Library
Affect of Service: Library Users Speak Up
The 2003 LibQUAL survey consisted of a core group of 25 questions designed to measure users’ perceptions 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. This article will examine how library users judge us on the nine questions in the Affect of service dimension, which focuses on the quality of our customer service. As in the previous articles, the different perceptions among EMU user groups and among the nine disciplines/academic departments, which had a least twenty respondents, will be discussed.
How successful is the library in providing the following:
Employees who instill confidence in users (828 respondents - 496 undergraduates, 117 graduate students, 155 faculty, 9 library staff, 51 university staff) Chart 1
This question is one of only two in this dimension where all five user groups report that the library exceeds their minimum expectations. Although undergraduate respondents overall perceive that their minimum standards are exceeded by +.27, seniors feel that from their perspective library staff do not meet acceptable standards in instilling confidence in users. Graduate students, faculty and university staff find that the library slightly exceeds their minimum expectations with adequacy gaps of +.03, +.18 and +.10 respectively. Although library employees are harsh self-critics in the Affect of service dimension, they do believe their ability to instill confidence exceeds minimum standards by +.78.
Business, Communications/Journalism, Education, Health Sciences, Performing and Fine Arts and Science/Math respondents all give the library positive scores here, with adequacy gaps ranging from +.03 from Performing and Fine Arts up to +.73 from Science/Math. Engineering/Computer Science and Humanities respondents are negative in their assessment with adequacy gaps of -.07 and -.54 respectively.
Readiness to respond to users’ questions (847 respondents - 510 undergraduates, 119 graduate students, 158 faculty, 9 library staff, 51 university staff) Chart 2
In this area, the library meets the minimum level of service expected by undergraduates overall; however, junior and seniors feel that we do not provide acceptable service. In fact, seniors, with an adequacy gap of -.27, are nearly as dissatisfied as graduate students who find that our service fails to meet minimum standards by -.37. Faculty respondents perceive that library staff slightly exceed their minimum expectations. University staff, usually reporting very positive perceptions about the library, feel that library staff’s readiness to respond to questions falls short of minimum standards by -.18. Likewise, library staff, with an adequacy gap of -.11, feel that the service provided is not quite acceptable.
Business, Communications/Journalism and Health Sciences respondents are the only disciplines to report that library customer service here exceeds their minimum expectations. Respondents from the other six disciplines give the library negative adequacy gap scores ranging from -.04 from Science/Math down to -.57 from Humanities.
Willingness to help users (856 respondents - 517 undergraduates, 120 graduate students, 159 faculty, 9 library staff, 51 university staff) Chart 3
Although seniors believe that our willingness to help users falls below their minimum standards by -.19, undergraduates overall report that our service here exceeds acceptable levels by +.07. Faculty and university staff also give the library positive scores here, with adequacy gaps of +.14 and +.06 respectively. Graduate students (-.23 adequacy gap) and library employees (-.11 adequacy gap) perceive that staff’s willingness to help users does not meet minimum standards.
Business, Communications/Journalism, Education, and Science/Math give the library positive adequacy gap scores ranging from +.12 from Education up to +.44 from Communications/Journalism. Health Sciences respondents report that the library exactly matches their minimum expectations in this area. The negative adequacy gap scores from respondents in the other four disciplines fall between -.12 from Social Sciences/Psychology and -.23 from Humanities.
Dependability in handling users’ service problems (796 respondents - 479 undergraduates, 111 graduate students, 150 faculty, 9 library staff, 47 university staff) Chart 4
According to the perceptions of all five user groups, the library has significant problems in this area. Undergraduates are the least critical, reporting an adequacy gap of -.05. Freshmen and sophomores actually feel that we exceed their minimum expectations, but their positive scores are outweighed by the negative opinions of juniors, seniors and fifth year and above students. University staff find us falling below acceptable standards by -.17 while library staff are slightly more critical with an adequacy gap of -.22. On its dependability in handling users’ service problems, the library receives poor evaluations from graduate students (-.48 adequacy gap) and faculty (-.42 adequacy gap). These two scores are the worst received from user groups in the Affect of service dimension.
Among the nine disciplines, the library receives positive adequacy gap scores from Business (+.08), Communications/Journalism (+.52) and Health Sciences (+.02). The remaining disciplines also give the library its harshest scores for the dimension. Respondents from Education (-.09 adequacy gap) and Social Sciences/Psychology (-.15 adequacy gap) are the least critical while respondents from Engineering/Computer Science (-.77 adequacy gap and -1.96 superiority gap) and Humanities (-.80 adequacy gap and -2.17 superiority gap) are the most unhappy with the quality of service here.
Giving users individual attention (826 respondents - 500 undergraduates, 114 graduate students, 154 faculty, 9 library staff, 49 university staff) Chart 5
This is the other question in the Affect of service dimension where all user groups report that the library exceeds their minimum expectations. As is typical among the undergraduate population, the positive attitudes decline with each class. The library exceeds freshmen’s minimum standards by +.47 but exceeds seniors by only +.03. Graduate students, with an adequacy gap of +.10, have slightly more favorable impressions than seniors. Faculty (+.35 adequacy gap) and university staff (+.24 adequacy gap) are also content with the level of attention they receive. Library staff are very pleased with the service here, reporting that library employees exceed not only minimum expectations (+1.00 adequacy gap) but also the desired level of service (+.33 superiority gap).
Respondents from seven of the nine disciplines also perceive that the library exceeds their minimum expectations, with adequacy gaps ranging from +.11 from Health Sciences up to +.73 from Education. Even the respondents from Humanities (-.06 adequacy gap) and Engineering/Computer Science (-.08 adequacy gap) report that the library is close to meeting acceptable levels of service.
Employees who have the knowledge to answer user questions (850 respondents - 514 undergraduates, 119 graduate students, 157 faculty, 9 library staff, 51 university staff) Chart 6
In this area, all user groups, except library staff, report that the library fails to meet minimum standards. Faculty (-.04 adequacy gap), university staff (-.06 adequacy gap) and undergraduates (-.12 adequacy gap) are not too critical. Interestingly, seniors (-.30 adequacy gap) and fifth year and above students (-.37 adequacy gap) have the most negative opinions of our service, surpassing even the disapproval of graduate students (-.29 adequacy gap). Library employees report that their knowledgeableness exceeds minimum standards by +.33.
Business, Communications/Journalism and Education respondents perceive that the library exceeds their minimum expectations by +.23, +.30 and +.01 respectively. The negative perceptions from the other six disciplines range from a -.10 adequacy gap score from Science/Math down to -.55 from Humanities and -.65 from Engineering/Computer Science.
Employees who are consistently courteous (860 respondents - 518 undergraduates, 121 graduate students, 160 faculty, 9 library staff, 52 university staff) Chart 7
Only faculty (+.04 adequacy gap) and university staff (+.07 adequacy gap) feel that the courteousness of library staff meets their minimum expectations, although obviously neither group is particularly impressed. From the undergraduate population, the library receives slightly positive adequacy gap scores from freshmen and juniors but receives negative scores from sophomores and seniors, resulting in an overall adequacy gap of -.11. Seniors, with an adequacy gap of -.33 are more negative than graduate students (-.25 adequacy gap). Even library employees, with an adequacy gap of -.11, believe that their courteousness leaves something to be desired.
Among the disciplines, Communications/Journalism respondents are the most positive in their assessment, finding that library staff exceed their minimum expectations by +.34. Business, Education and Engineering/Computer Science respondents report that staff courteousness slightly exceeds acceptable standards. Respondents from the remaining five disciplines do not feel they are receiving acceptable treatment, with Humanities (-63 adequacy gap and -2.04 superiority gap) expressing the most dissatisfaction.
Employees who deal with users in a caring fashion (836 respondents - 503 undergraduates, 117 graduate students, 158 faculty, 9 library staff, 49 university staff) Chart 8
As is the case in the previous question, faculty and university staff are the only groups to find that customer service in this area exceeds their minimum standards by +.09 and +.08 respectively. Although undergraduates perceive our service to fall below acceptable standards by only -.02, seniors, with an adequacy gap of -.35, are again more negative in their assessment. In fact, their perceptions are very close to those of library employees, who with an adequacy gap of -.33, give themselves the most negative score among the user groups. Graduate students find that customer service quality here falls below their minimum standards by -.21.
Although respondents from six disciplines feel that the library exceeds minimum expectations, their positive adequacy gap scores, with the exception of the +.52 from Communications/Journalism, are quite small. Engineering/Computer Science, Health Sciences and Humanities respondents perceive customer service quality in this area to be less than acceptable, with adequacy gaps ranging from -.10 from Health Sciences down to -.50 from the other two disciplines.
Employees who understand the needs of their users (819 respondents - 489 undergraduates, 115 graduate students, 156 faculty, 9 library staff, 50 university staff) Chart 9
The highest approval rating here comes from library employees who give themselves an adequacy gap score of +.22. While the library does barely meet the minimum expectations of undergraduates (+.01 adequacy gap), the positive perceptions of freshmen and sophomores are replaced by negative ones from juniors and seniors. University employees report that their minimum standards are being exceeded by +.14. Graduate students (-.31 adequacy gap) and faculty (-.19 adequacy gap) report that customer service in this area falls below acceptable standards.
The library receives its most favorable score from Business (+.33 adequacy gap) while respondents from Performing and Fine Arts, Science/Math and Social Sciences/Psychology find customer service quality in this area to just slightly exceed the minimum level they expect. Education respondents report that their perceptions of our service quality exactly match their minimum standards. The remaining four disciplines have negative perceptions, ranging from an adequacy gap of -.13 from Communications/Journalism down to -.82 from Engineering/Computer Science.