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Eastern Michigan University Library
Library as Place 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 "Library as Place" dimension contained five questions that gauged library users’ perceptions about the library space itself and how well it promotes study, learning and research. It is important to remember that when this survey was conducted in 2003 the library building was still relatively new and this resulted in some very positive scores. Now the building is over ten years old. How users’ responded in 2009 can be seen as a reflection of how well our facilities have been maintained and updated in the intervening years.
The following are the statements/questions, respondents by type, brief discussions of the results and accompanying charts.
Question One. Quiet space for individual activities. (733 total respondents- 520 undergraduates, 165 graduate students, 36 faculty, 13 library staff, 12 university staff)
Responses to the first question in this dimension showed an improvement from the 2003 survey (where respondents already gave us high marks). All user groups said that we exceeded minimum expectations with the highest rating coming from faculty (adequacy gap of +1.42). A pleasant surprise was found when both faculty and University staff told us that we even exceeded desired standards (superiority gap ratings of +.17 and +.33). Several comments were left that identified the library as a quiet place for an individual to work on research. One graduate student told us that "the library is my chosen place for study and working on class assignments" and that he prefers "the quiet atmosphere of the third floor to any other location on campus." The recent designation of the third floor as a quiet study area has been received positively and, even though a few comments indicate a desire for more quiet in other areas, the library seems to be performing well in this area.
Question Two. A comfortable and inviting location. (744 total respondents, 520 undergraduates, 169 graduate students, 41 faculty, 12 library staff, 14 university staff)
It is important for patrons to see our building as a comfortable and inviting place. Scores for this query in 2009 were statistically similar to those we received in 2003. We received positive adequacy gap ratings across the board, especially from faculty and staff, but there was no significant improvement. Comments left provide evidence of some frustrations. Several respondents mentioned occasional temperature problems in the building. These typically occur at the hinge of the seasons when outside temperatures fluctuate and are an ongoing challenge. While some liked the modern facilities there were others who thought the building felt sterile and could have a cozier feel (one undergraduate suggested we could use more "warm tones with colorful art"). Individual aesthetics will always keep us from pleasing everyone but the overall positive adequacy gap ratings seem to suggest we are striking a good balance. Another issue that affects our perception as an inviting location seems to be our hours of operation. Over thirty respondents, all of them students, took the time to leave comments requesting extended hours, especially on weekends.
Question Three. Library space that inspired study and learning. (742 total respondents, 522 undergraduates, 167 graduate students, 40 faculty, 13 library staff, 13 university staff)
When comparing ratings from the 2003 and 2009 surveys for this question we find results similar to those of the previous question. Respondents in both surveys gave us similar scores. We did find an encouraging improvement among our faculty respondents (+.91 adequacy gap rating in 2003 and +1.35 adequacy gap rating in 2009). Library and University staff also thought we exceeded minimum expectations in this area (with respective adequacy gap ratings of +1.00 and +2.31). Some positive student comments included: "the Halle Library is a good place for a student to get away, and come and study", "the library is a good place to be for focusing on the task at hand", and "the library atmosphere motivates me to study and work".
Question Four. Community space for group learning and group study. (695 total respondents, 490 undergraduates, 159 graduate students, 35 faculty, 11 library staff, 11 university staff)
The library fared well in this area as well, registering a positive overall adequacy gap rating of +.93 (second only to question two in this dimension). Faculty gave us the most favorable rating (with a high adequacy gap score of +.94 coupled with a positive superiority gap score of +.03). Undergraduates also gave us high marks (+.94 adequacy gap and -.43 superiority gap) but many user comments suggested how we could further improve our perception as a space for group learning. The popularity of group study rooms on the second and third floor of the library is evident and the only student complaints (besides the seasonal temperature issues mentioned above) were about their lack of availability during busier times of the semester. "I wish there were more study rooms" and "need more individual and group study rooms all over the library" are indicative.
Question Five. A getaway for study, learning, or research. (728 total respondents, 511 undergraduates, 166 graduate students, 39 faculty, 13 library staff, 12 university staff)
All patron types reported that the library exceeded their minimum expectations for this question. It is not surprising that these results resemble those for the previous statements regarding the library as a comfortable and inviting space. Our highest ratings again came from faculty respondents (superiority gap rating of +.05 and adequacy gap rating of +1.33). This was an improvement from our 2003 survey. In fact, adequacy gap scores were up for every group besides library staff (and that was only a modest slip from +1.11 to +1.08). There is reason to believe that we could perform even better in this area, though, primarily among our students, if the building and services were open more hours, primarily on weekends. Among the numerous comments received were "the only reason I really did this survey was to comment on the fact that it is disappointing that the library does not stay open later on the weekends", "not open enough hours on the weekend" and "I would love a 24 hour library". The positive scores in this dimension suggest that our users like the library space and desire more access to it.