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Eastern Michigan University Library
Library as Place: 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 look at the five questions in the Library as place dimension which examines users’ perceptions about the physical environment. It is not surprising, given our six-year-old, state-of-the-art facility, that we not only exceed the minimum expectations of all user groups but in several instances either meet or come close to meeting their desired expectations. With a few exceptions, the respondents from the nine disciplines having more than twenty respondents also have extremely favorable impressions of the library’s facilities.
How successful is the library in providing the following:
Quiet space for individual activities (855 respondents - 530 undergraduates, 121 graduate students, 145 faculty, 9 library staff, 50 university staff) Chart 1
Given that the library exceeds the minimum standards of all user groups, with adequacy gaps ranging from +.23 for undergraduates up to +.91 for faculty, it becomes more interesting to look at the differences in minimum and desired expectations among the five groups. University and library employees have the highest minimum standards (7.44 and 7.14 respectively), and university employees also have the highest desired standard (8.24). Undergraduates have higher minimum (6.94) and desired (8.05) expectations than do graduate students and faculty. However, although undergraduates overall find that the library exceeds their minimum expectations, this is not the case with seniors (-.02 adequacy gap) and fifth year and above students (-.05 adequacy gap). Because faculty place considerably less importance on the provision of quiet space, as reflected in their low minimum and desired standards, the library not only substantially exceeds their minimum expectations but also comes very close to meeting their desired standards with a superiority gap of only -.07.
Respondents from seven of the nine disciplines express satisfaction with quiet study areas, reporting adequacy gaps ranging from +.18 from Science and Math up to +1.02 from Communications/Journalism. Engineering/Computer Science and Health Sciences respondents feel that the study space is not adequate, reporting adequacy gaps of -.57 and -.56 and sizeable superiority gaps of -1.82 and -1.43 respectively.
A comfortable and inviting location (872 respondents - 531 undergraduates, 122 graduate students, 158 faculty, 9 library staff, 52 university staff) Chart 2
All user group find the library to be comfortable and inviting. Library and university employees again report higher minimum and desired expectations than the other three groups, and the library not only exceeds their minimum standards by +1.34 and +.96 respectively but also meets the desired expectations of university employees and exceeds those of library staff by +.34. Undergraduates (all years), graduate students and faculty also respond very positively with adequacy gaps of +.83, +.92 and +1.38 respectively. Faculty respondents place the least importance on this facility quality and report that the library exceeds their desired expectations by +.16.
The library also receives positive adequacy gap scores from all nine disciplines, and it is noteworthy that respondents who have expressed negative perceptions in the other dimensions do find the library to be an inviting place. Humanities, Science/Math and Social Sciences/Psychology respondents report that the library exceeds their minimum expectations by +1.33, +1.59 and +1.40 respectively. The library also surpasses the desired expectations of Communications/Journalism (+.05 superiority gap) and Science/Math (+.15 superiority gap).
Library space that inspires study and learning (857 respondents - 530 undergraduates, 120 graduate students, 151 faculty, 9 library staff, 47 university staff) Chart 3
Library employees express the most favorable opinions on this question, with the library exceeding their minimum expectations by +1.44 and desired expectations by +.11. All user groups have relatively low minimum standards here, ranging from 6.47 from graduate students up to 6.74 from university staff, and only graduate students have a desired expectation level exceeding 8.00. Undergraduates (all years), graduate students and faculty perceive that the library exceeds their minimum standards by +.49, +.56 and +.91 respectively.
Respondents from all nine disciplines again report that the library exceeds their minimum expectations with adequacy gap scores ranging from +.25 from Engineering/Computer Science up to +1.11 from Social Sciences/Psychology. Although the mean scores for desired level of inspirational library space are below 8.00 for all but two disciplines, the library does not receive any positive superiority gap scores.
Community space for group learning and group study (787 respondents - 492 undergraduates, 107 graduate students, 133 faculty, 9 library staff, 46 university staff) Chart 4
University employees have the highest positive perceptions, reporting that the library exceeds their minimum expectations by +1.39 and their desired expectations by +.24. They are followed closely by faculty (+1.30 adequacy gap and +.10 superiority gap) and library staff (+1.34 adequacy gap and equaled desired expectations). Faculty place less importance on the provision of community space, in terms of both their minimum and desired standards, than do the other user groups. Graduate students have the lowest positive adequacy gap score (+.37) as well as the highest negative superiority gap score (-1.08).
Respondents from eight of nine disciplines feel that the library exceeds their minimum expectations, with adequacy gaps ranging from +.26 from Engineering/Computer Science up to +1.29 from Humanities. Health Sciences respondents report that the library falls below their minimum expectations by -.02 and their desired expectations by -.96.
A getaway for study, learning or research (822 respondents - 515 undergraduates, 116 graduate students, 140 faculty, 9 library staff, 42 university staff) Chart 5
Library staff not only report the highest minimum (7.33) and desired (8.17) mean scores but also the highest positive adequacy gap score (+1.11) and the only positive superiority gap score (+.22). Faculty and university employees report that the library exceeds their minimum expectations by +.79 and +.77 respectively. Faculty again have the lowest minimum (6.38) and desired (7.67) mean scores among the user groups. Undergraduates (all years) and graduate students have positive impressions, with adequacy gaps of +.40 and +.31 respectively but the two groups report the highest negative superiority gaps (-.77 and -1.06).
Eight of the nine disciplines give the library favorable marks here, with adequacy gaps ranging from +.15 from Science/Math up to +.76 from Social Sciences/Psychology and +.78 from Communications/Journalism. Engineering/Computer Science respondents report that the library fall below their minimum standards by -.15 and below their desired standards by -1.52.