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Eastern Michigan University Library
Personal Control: 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 the last article, we examined how library users judged us on the Access to Information dimension. This article will explore the six questions in the closely related Personal Control dimension, which seeks to discover how easily and independently users can access library resources both within the building itself and remotely from home or office. The LibQUAL survey developers, recognizing the overlap among the eleven questions in these two dimensions, have now combined and condensed both into the Information Control dimension, which has eight questions. As in the previous article, the differences in library service needs among EMU user groups and among the different disciplines will be discussed. (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:
Easy-to-use access tools that allow me to find things on my own (872 respondents- 533 undergraduates, 120 graduate students, 158 faculty, 9 library staff, 49 university staff) Chart 1
University staff respondents are the only user group to report that our service here exceeds their minimum expectations and that is only by the narrow margin of +.10. Undergraduates as a whole give us an adequacy gap of -.11, although freshmen and sophomores feel that the quality of the library’s access tools does exceed their minimum expectations by +.35 and +.22 respectively. We lose ground with juniors and seniors; in fact, seniors, with an adequacy gap score of -.47 are more critical than graduate students who give us a score of -.16. Faculty give us the poorest marks in this area with an adequacy gap score of -.61 and a superiority gap of -2.15. Interestingly, library staff, with an adequacy gap of -.56 and a superiority gap of -2.00, are not far behind in their negative assessment of our access tools. This is the only question in both the Access to Information and Personal Control dimensions to receive negative adequacy and superiority gap scores from library staff. In fact, the library staff also give this question their highest desired mean score (8.78) among all 25 survey questions. Looking at the other user groups, the desired mean score for this question ranges from 8.14 from undergraduates up to 8.34 from faculty, indicating that library staff place more importance on access tools or finding aids than other user groups do.
In nine disciplines, there were at least twenty respondents, allowing us to gauge whether opinions about access tools vary by academic department. Business and Education respondents report that the quality of library access tools exceeds their minimum expectations. Communication/Journalism, Engineering/Computer Science, Health Sciences, Humanities, Performing and Fine Arts, Science/Math, and Social Sciences/Psychology respondents all have negative opinions of our finding aids, with the harshest scores from Engineering/Computer Science with an adequacy gap of -.94 and a superiority gap of -2.13 followed by Humanities and Performing and Fine Arts both with adequacy gaps of -.63 and superiority gaps of -2.37 and -2.19 respectively.
Convenient access to library collections (853 respondents - 516 undergraduates, 119 graduate students, 159 faculty, 9 library staff, 47 university staff) Chart 2
Undergraduates, library staff and university staff all report that the library exceeds their minimum expectations in this area. As is usual among the undergraduate population, the library receives higher marks from freshmen and sophomores than from juniors and seniors. Graduate students perceive our service in this area to be only slightly less than their minimum standards, with an adequacy gap of -.08. Faculty perceive that their access to library collections falls below acceptable standards by -.58 and also report the largest superiority gap (-1.96) among the user groups.
Business, Communication/Journalism and Education respondents consider the service in this area to exceed their minimum expectations by +.52, +.47 and +.14 respectively. The remaining six departments do not find this to be the case, with Humanities reporting the largest negative adequacy gap (-.90) and the largest negative superiority gap (-2.56).
A library Web site enabling me to locate information on my own (851 respondents - 515 undergraduates, 120 graduate students, 156 faculty, 9 library staff, 48 university staff) Chart 3
Note: The 2003 LibQUAL survey was conducted prior to the revamping of the library’s Web site during the summer of 2003. The following opinions are based on the site as it appeared in February and March of 2003.
Undergraduates, library staff and university staff found the quality of the Web site to exceed their minimum expectations by +.23, +.11 and +.06 respectively. The library actually received positive adequacy gap scores from all four undergraduate classes, although we went from a high of +.41 from sophomores and juniors down to only +.02 from seniors. As in the previous question, the library did not fare too badly among graduate students who gave our Web site an adequacy gap score of only -.13. Faculty were the most critical of the Web site, giving it an adequacy gap score of -.63.
The library’s Web pages exceeded the minimum expectations of Business, Communication/Journalism and Education respondents, who reported positive adequacy gaps of +.30, +.87 and +.22 respectively. Engineering/Computer Science respondents were by far the most critical, judging the Web site to fall below their minimum standards by -1.04 and below their desired expectations by -2.26. The remaining departments had negative adequacy gaps ranging from -.10 from Science/Math down to -.34 from Performing and Fine Arts.
Modern equipment lets me easily access needed information (862 respondents - 524 undergraduates, 120 graduate students, 159 faculty, 9 library staff, 47 university staff) Chart 4
With the exception of graduate students, every user group gives the library positive scores for its provision of modern equipment. Perceptions of our service here exceed minimum standards, with adequacy gaps ranging from +.08 from faculty up to +.78 from library staff. Although undergraduate students on average give us high marks, the adequacy gap scores decline from a high of +.60 for freshmen down to +.17 for juniors and by their senior year, students find our technology equipment to fall below their minimum expectations by -.13. Graduate students find the quality of our technology equipment to be slightly below acceptable standards with an adequacy gap of -.11.
Looking at the ratings across disciplines, Business, Communication/Journalism, Education, Health Sciences and Social Sciences/Psychology respondents all find the quality of our technology equipment to exceed their minimum standards. For those disciplines where we fail to meet minimum standards, the library receives negative adequacy gap scores ranging from -.08 from Performing and Fine Arts down to -.55 from Engineering/Computer Science.
Making information easily accessible for independent use (858 respondents - 520 undergraduates, 120 graduate students, 157 faculty, 9 library staff, 49 university staff) Chart 5
Here we receive our only solid positive ratings from library staff. Even though undergraduates overall find that the library meets their minimum expectations with an adequacy gap of +.01, these students’ perceptions of the library’s capabilities in this area decline with each class. We go from positive adequacy gaps of +.46 from freshmen down to a negative score of -.29 from seniors. Graduate students find the library’s facilitation of independent use to fall below their minimum standards by only -.06. Faculty are the most critical, perceiving that library service in this area falls below acceptable standards by -.32.
The library receives positive marks from Business, Communication/Journalism and Education with adequacy gaps of +.37, +.41 and +.05 respectively. The most interesting results come from Engineering/Computer Science respondents who find that the library’s service here actually meets their minimum expectations. The most negative scores come from Humanities respondents who give us an adequacy gap score of -.60 and a superiority gap score of -1.98.
Making electronic resources accessible from home or office (812 respondents - 483 undergraduates, 119 graduate students, 155 faculty, 8 library staff, 44 university staff) Chart 5
Undergraduates, library staff and university staff report that remote access to library resources exceeds their minimum expectations. Library staff and freshmen not only give our service in this area adequacy gap scores of +.88 and +.72 respectively but also find the least disparity between their perceptions and their desired level of service. The library’s remote provision of electronic resources impresses the rest of the undergraduate population as well, although our perceived scores among juniors and seniors are only slightly above their minimum expectations. Graduate students and faculty find us deficient in meeting their minimum standards by -.21 and -.62 respectively. Among all user groups, except library staff, remote access to library resources receives the highest desired level of service in the Personal Control dimension.
As has typically been the case in this dimension, Business, Communication/Journalism and Education respondents feel the library exceeds their minimum expectations, with adequacy gaps of +.18, +.46 and +.14 respectively. The library fails to meet the minimum standards of respondents in the remaining disciplines with adequacy gap scores ranging from -.14 from Social Sciences/Psychology down to -.52 for Health Sciences and -.53 for Engineering/Computer Science.
The library received the most negative gap scores in this dimension as well as in the closely related Access to Information category, which was examined in the last article. 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 2004 winter term, the library will also be holding focus groups with graduate students to learn more about their specific concerns.