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Eastern Michigan University Library
Affect of Service Dimension - Discussion of Results
Bob Stevens, Humanities Librarian
The 2009 LibQUAL survey consisted of a core group of 22 questions designed to measure users’ perceptions and expectations of library service quality in the following three areas or dimensions: Personal Control, Affect of Service and Library as Place. There were also five additional Local Questions added by Halle Library to further customize the survey for our users. The questions in each of these areas will be discussed individually but the methodology is the same. 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. The two important calculations that help us measure the satisfaction of our library users are the Service Adequacy Gap and the Service Superiority Gap. Positive numbers reveal we are doing well in an area while negative numbers reveal areas where improvement may be needed.
The Service Adequacy Gap is calculated by subtracting the minimum score from the perceived score on any given question and a positive 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 serviced quality while a negative number reveals how large the gap is between the service users feel they are receiving and the service they desire.
The second dimension we will review is the Affect of Service Dimension which gave our users the chance to rate the quality of our customer service by responding to nine statements. These nine statements are identical to those that appeared in our 2003 survey so we will review some of the interesting comparisons and contrasts that emerged between the two.
The following are the statements/questions, respondents by type, brief discussions of the results and accompanying charts.
Question One. Employees who instill confidence in users. (740 total respondents- 499 undergraduates, 173 graduate students, 41 faculty, 13 library staff, 14 university staff)
Responses to this first question, and every other question in this dimension, resulted in positive overall service adequacy gap scores. This shows a marked improvement from responses to the same questions in the 2003 survey. It was encouraging to see our highest rating come from faculty in regards to employees instilling confidence in users (an adequacy gap score of +1.32 combined with a minimal negative superiority gap of -.29). The next highest rating came from library staff who thought their fellow library employees exceeded expectations, registering an adequacy gap of 1.14.
Question Two. Readiness to respond to users’ questions. (732 total respondents, 492 undergraduates, 172 graduate students, 41 faculty, 13 library staff, 14 university staff)
In the 2003 survey we found that graduate students, library staff and university staff thought that library performance in this area failed to meet their minimum expectations while faculty and undergraduates told us that we barely met the minimum standards. The 2009 survey results were much more encouraging and indicate progress. Graduate students, library staff and university staff all told us that we exceeded minimum expectations (registering service adequacy gaps of .56, .85 and .43 respectively). We also improved our image in this area in the eyes of undergraduates and faculty, with the highest ratings once again coming from faculty. A comment left by an undergraduate stated “I think the employees that work for the library are very helpful. I don’t often need help when I am at the library, but when I have had questions, there was always someone who could give me an answer”.
Question Three. Willingness to help users. (739 total respondents, 499 undergraduates, 174 graduate students, 40 faculty, 13 library staff, 13 university staff)
This is another area in the Affect of Service dimension that showed improvement across the board. The most notable improvement is found in responses from our graduate students. In the 2003 survey they perceived that staff’s willingness to help others did not meet their minimum standards (registering an adequacy gap of -.23). The 2009 survey revealed a shifting perception from our 174 graduate student respondents who gave us a positive service adequacy gap rating of .51. Evidence of this willingness to help users can be found in a story left by an undergraduate who was accidentally trapped in a group study room later in the evening when the lock on the door broke. He was impressed with how quick and courteous the help was, writing “They called a locksmith at 11 o’clock at night and they came out and repaired the lock. The point is, I was impressed with how the library staff handled it”. Another undergraduate noted that “the staff has always been very helpful and easy to talk to when I attend the library”.
Question Four. Dependability in handling users’ service problems. (616 total respondents, 408 undergraduates, 147 graduate students, 36 faculty, 13 library staff, 12 university staff)
Our lowest overall rating in this dimension (although still positive with a service adequacy gap of +.33) came when respondents evaluated our dependability in handling users’ service problems. Although these ratings were again uniformly higher than ratings we received in the 2003 survey, this still indicates some room for improvement. One undergraduate student told us that she was disappointed that no one from IT was available to help her get a Wi-Fi connection on a Sunday but a lack of other comments about service problems leaves us wondering how we can further improve in this area. Our highest ratings came from library staff, undergraduates and faculty (in that order).
Question Five. Giving users individual attention. (728 total respondents, 494 undergraduates, 169 graduate students, 40 faculty, 13 library staff, 12 university staff)
The library exceeded all user group expectations in regards to users receiving individual attention in the 2003 survey but these service adequacy gaps were even better in 2009. For example, faculty registered a +.35 adequacy gap in 2003 and a +1.00 in 2009 while university staff adequacy gap ratings jumped from +.24 in 2003 to +.42 in 2009. One reason for improvements in responses to this particular question may have to do with our recently implemented Academic Projects Center which is designed to give students individual attention when addressing their research needs. One undergraduate wrote “The Academic Projects Center (APC) is excellent! The staff are helpful, polite, and well-informed. The staff at the APC serve as a model of what customer service represents, while simultaneously encouraging academic inquiry.” The words “helpful” and “polite” were used in other comments left about the APC. This particular service point is clearly one reason why we improved in other areas of this dimension as well.
Question Six. Employees who have the knowledge to answer user questions. (728 total respondents, 489 undergraduates, 172 graduate students, 40 faculty, 13 library staff, 14 university staff)
Service adequacy gaps in this area were all negative in the 2003 survey. The 2009 survey results showed a complete turnaround with positive service adequacy gaps awarded by all respondent types. Our highest marks came from library staff and university faculty (+1.00 and +.80 adequacy gaps respectively). Librarians were singled out and praised for their ability to answer user questions (several by name). A representative comment was left by a graduate student who wrote the “research librarians are a wonderful resource and very helpful”. Our overall ratings in this area, however, may have been even better if not for the perception that student employees are less than helpful when answering user questions. One faculty member wrote she was “pleased with the librarians and their helpfulness” but that “some of the student employees are not as helpful”. An undergraduate wrote that students who work in the library “should be better prepared for questions or problems that may arise”. This general theme was repeated in numerous other comments.
Question Seven. Employees who are consistently courteous. (762 total respondents, 517 undergraduates, 176 graduate students, 42 faculty, 13 library staff, 14 university staff)
Several respondents left comments specifically complimenting library staff on being courteous. “Courteous and helpful” wrote one university staff member while a graduate student commented that “overall I find the staff to be courteous and knowledgeable”. Our student employees, however, were once again singled out in comments as lacking courtesy. Student help at the Circulation desk, in particular, was mentioned in several comments. One graduate student, for example, told us that she was “treated rudely” when asking about room reservation policy. In spite of comments such as these, our overall service adequacy gap showed a big improvement from the 2003 survey. In 2003 only faculty (+.04 adequacy gap) and university staff (+.07 adequacy gap) felt that the courteousness of library employees met their minimum expectations (and not by much). In 2009 every individual user group registered strongly on the positive side with an overall +.52 adequacy gap.
Question Eight. Employees who deal with users in a caring fashion. (734 total respondents, 494 undergraduates, 173 graduate students, 40 faculty, 13 library staff, 14 university staff)
Graduate students and even library employees felt that the library did not meet minimum expectations in this area when asked in the 2003 survey. Once again, as with the other questions in the “Affect of Service’” dimension, we showed significant improvement with the results of our 2009 survey. Faculty once again gave us our best ratings with an adequacy gap of +.98 (compared to only +.09 in 2003). The next highest score came from the 494 undergraduate respondents who gave us a rating of +.67 (compared to a lowly -.02 below acceptable standards in 2003). We may want to remember the above comments regarding the APC and librarians when considering possible reasons for this improvement.
Question Nine. Employees who understand the needs of their users. (718 total respondents, 480 undergraduates, 171 graduate students, 40 faculty, 13 library staff, 14 university staff)
The last statement to discuss in the Affect of Service dimension follows suit with the others in that improvement has been shown since the 2003 survey was conducted. In 2003 we found that graduate students (-.31 adequacy gap) and faculty (-.19 adequacy gap) felt that the library staff’s ability to understand the needs of their users fell below acceptable standards. In the 2009 survey these adequacy gap ratings jumped to +.43 for graduate students and +.98 for faculty. In spite of some negative comments regarding student workers, it seems that the library is doing a good job with customer/patron service. One graduate student echoed many other comments when she told us that “overall the library has excellent customer services and has helped when I needed the help”. An undergraduate told us “the staff in the library are very understanding and extremely helpful”. There is always room for improvement but considerable progress has been made since 2003.