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Eastern Michigan University Library
Personal Control 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 first dimension we will review is the Personal Control Dimension. In this section users were asked to rate the quality and accessibility of the library collection (print and electronic) by rating eight statements. Five of the eight statements are identical to those which appeared in the Personal Control portion of the 2003 survey, thus allowing for some interesting, and largely positive, comparisons.
The following are the statements/questions, respondents by type, brief discussions of the results and accompanying charts.
Question One. Print and/or electronic journal collections I require for my work. (720 total respondents- 484 undergraduates, 169 graduate students, 43 faculty, 11 library staff, 13 university staff)
The majority of respondents in this area (undergraduates, library and university staff) indicated that the library exceeded their minimum expectations but faculty and graduate students revealed the journal collection slightly lacking for their research needs (with service adequacy gaps of -.14 and -.30 respectively). This would seem to reflect a collection development focus on our larger undergraduate population but the negative scores are comparatively minimal. The service superiority gap in this area is where we find more significant negative scores from all respondents, indicating a strong collective desire for a better journal collection.
Question Two. The printed library materials I need for my work. (711 total respondents, 486 undergraduates, 164 graduate students, 39 faculty, 13 library staff, 9 university staff)
The print collection received positive service adequacy gaps across the board with the highest score registered by our faculty respondents. Service superiority gaps, however, were correspondingly negative. This is to be expected (all users understandably desire a better collection) but what was surprising was that the most negative reading emanated from our undergraduate population (a score of -.96). While this was unanticipated, a common thread that emerged from personal comments left by survey participants was the desire for a better popular reading collection (exemplified by observations such as “Don’t like the lack of pleasure reading that exists in the library”). This is an area in which librarians do not traditionally purchase (unless such titles directly support the curriculum or are part of current class reading assignments). The results in this area combined with those comments suggest a re-thinking of this policy may be in order.
Question Three. The electronic information resources I need. (753 total respondents, 508 undergraduates, 176 graduate students, 43 faculty, 13 library staff, 13 university staff)
This was another area that received positive service adequacy gaps across the board. It was, in fact, tied with “Making information easily accessible for independent use” (see question seven below) for highest overall adequacy gap ratings. It was also, like the previous question regarding the print collection, an area that received all negative service superiority gaps but this time the lowest scores came from graduate students (-1.18) who clearly desire more electronic information for their research. Although we did receive some positive comments like the following- “MELCat and ILL are great services - I use MELCat often. On the whole, the library access from home is relatively good - I like JSTOR and having the ability to retrieve full-text articles and pdfs from journals and publications. I use the databases frequently also. I am a post-bacc student who is student teaching this semester and unable to get to campus, so having electronic access is important.”
Question Four. Easy-to-use access tools that allow me to find things on my own. (754 total respondents, 512 undergraduates, 173 graduate students, 42 faculty, 13 library staff, 14 university staff)
In our 2003 survey only university staff respondents reported that service in this area exceeded their minimum expectations (and only by a narrow margin of +.10). Our 2009 survey reveals a major improvement. All respondent groups gave the library a positive service adequacy gap in this area and the highest ratings came from faculty. Service superiority gaps regarding access tools also showed improvement even though further improvement is desired, especially by graduate students (-1.14). One undergraduate commented that ”the ease and accessibility of the online databases is excellent! I could not have written most of the many research papers that I have without this resource. I also love the InterLibrary Loan and the MelCat system. I am going to miss all of these services when I graduate!”
Question Five. A library web site enabling me to locate information on my own. (773 total respondents, 523 undergraduates, 180 graduate students, 43 faculty, 13 library staff, 14 university staff)
Results in this area may reveal increasingly higher standards for web sites in general (but it should be noted that this survey was conducted five months before the library revealed its current entirely revamped library website to overwhelmingly positive reviews). The 2003 survey (also conducted before a website revamp) found positive adequacy gap scores from all respondent groups but the 2009 survey saw a drop in scores in every area. Only undergraduates said our website exceeded their minimum expectations. All other groups rated our website as being below their minimum expectations. Service superiority gaps were predictably even lower. The following comment was typical of several regarding the website- “Very helpful staff compared to other universities I've attended in the past and I really like the fact you have specialists in academic areas that are available on site and via email to assist with research. The only complaint I have is the strange format of the website. The front page seems a bit cramped / jumbled.” This confirms the decision to revamp the website and this is an area we can confidently say we have already addressed.
Question Six. Modern equipment that lets me easily access needed information. (749 total respondents, 517 undergraduates, 165 graduate students, 41 faculty, 13 library staff, 13 university staff)
Perceptions of our service in this area continues to exceed minimum standards with positive adequacy gaps ranging from .08 (university staff) to .54 (faculty). The only exception was a slight negative adequacy gap of -.08 given by the 13 library staff respondents (the only area where they graded the library below minimum expectations). This is a curious change from the 2003 survey where our only negative rating came from the 120 graduate students who responded to the question. It is interesting to note, however, that library staff respondents were more positive overall in the Personal Control dimension. In 2003 there was only one question that received a positive adequacy gap from them. One student wrote “I love the fact that the library carries both pcs and macs. It makes users much more comfortable using the library for services because they can use the same operating system as they have at home.”
Question Seven. Making information easily accessible for independent use. (760 total respondents, 513 undergraduates, 179 graduate students, 42 faculty, 13 library staff, 13 university staff)
We received high scores in this area as well, the 760 total respondents giving the library an overall adequacy gap of .54. Graduate students were the group that indicated the strongest desire for a better level of service in this area (service superiority gap of -.92). Graduate students, overall in this dimension, show a pattern of responses that reveal them to be our most demanding users. Although it is ideal to provide information in an intuitive and straightforward manner, it is inevitable that some professional guidance is necessary when navigating some library resources. Information becomes more accessible for independent use as students learn these information literacy skills. One student commented “I am very pleased I have been able to learn how to use our databases with help from knowledgeable employees who answer my questions.”
Question Eight. Making electronic resources accessible from my home or office. (753 total respondents, 506 undergraduates, 177 graduate students, 43 faculty, 13 library staff, 14 university staff)
One student echoed the concerns of many others when writing "I'm a commuter so I mostly use the online library tools. That's what's most important to me. Being able to easily use the website." The good news is that the overall adequacy gap scores for all 8 questions in the Personal Control Dimension were positive. In the case of this last question involving the accessiblity of electronic resources from remote locations, only the 14 University staff members who took the survey gave us a slightly negative rating (adequacy gap of -.07), but this was averaged out by higher ratings from our other respondents. Undergraduates, library staff and faculty gave us the highest marks (+.65, +.62 and +.51 respectively). Even the 177 graduate student respondents gave us a positive rating. This demonstrates improvement from the 2003 survey when graduate students and faculty both found us deficient in meeting their minimum standards.