The Library successfully administered the web based LibQUAL+™ assessment of users' perceptions in Spring 2006. LibQUAL+™ was initiated at Texas A & M in 2000 as an experimental project for benchmarking perceptions of library service in ARL libraries. It is used by more than 200 libraries each year. LibQUAL+™ notes that "We used to think that libraries could provide reliable and reasonably complete access to published and scholarly output, yet we now know from LibQUAL+™ that users have an insatiable appetite for content. No library could have sufficient information content that would come close to satisfying this appetite." For this reason, as the Weinberg Memorial Library examines its results, we will also look at norms for all libraries that administered LibQUAL+™ during the same period to establish relative degrees of satisfaction with our program.
How well does the Library communicate what it has to satisfy this appetite? How well do we assist users in "ordering out" to supplement the in-house menu? In addition to benchmarking how well we feed the hunger for knowledge, LibQUAL+™ helps us to understand and act upon users' perceptions.
An email inviting participation was sent to a representative sample of 1400 randomly selected faculty, undergraduate and graduate students. Our response rate was 24% (338 responses): 231 undergraduates, 47 graduates and 48 faculty.
The Results Are In! Library Assesses Users’ Perceptions
There are 22 core questions that fall into three domains:
1) Affect of service questions focus on Library employees. Do they instill confidence in users, give individual attention, consistently behave courteously, show readiness to respond to users, have requisite knowledge, deal with users in a caring fashion, understand users' needs, willingly help and dependably handle users' service problems?
2) Library as a place focuses on the building itself. Does it inspire study and learning, provide a quiet place for individual activities, a comfortable and inviting location, a getaway for study, learning and research, and/or a community space for group learning and group study?
3) Information control focuses on print resources, Web content, and equipment. Does the Library make electronic resources accessible for home or office, does it enable the user to independently locate information, does it have the print and electronic sources users need, does it have modern equipment and easy-to-use access tools for user to independently find things?
How well the Library is assessed by users is reflected in gap scores. The scores are color coded in radial charts and displayed as bar graphs to assist in deriving meaning from the scores. The "zone of tolerance" indicates if the library is perceived as higher than the minimum expectation. A gap score indicates the distance between the desired and perceived level of service. An "adequacy gap" indicates when the library is perceived as below the minimum level of acceptable service. "Superiority" is indicated when the Library exceeds the desired level.
The Library had its highest ratings in the affect of services area especially for instilling confidence and for staff who are knowledgeable, caring, and willing to help. The lowest measures of user satisfaction were for information control, specifically access from home or office, the print and electronic journal holdings, and in the Library as a place, e.g. insufficient group study space.
In addition to these, the American Jesuit Colleges and Universities that administered LibQUAL+™ this year added five mission-related questions. The Weinberg Library exceeded users' expectations for a staff that promotes Jesuit ideas of social justice and respect for all persons and was within user expectations (the zone of tolerance) for the diversity of the collection, teaching access, evaluation and information skills, the Ask-a-Librarian chat and archives.
In addition to the broad picture, results are displayed by major and by category of the respondent, undergraduate, graduate and faculty. There are wide differences among these grouping in their assessments. This vital feedback gives the Library a picture of how best to serve those who are engaged in various studies.
The Library will be creating web pages on LibQUAL+™ results and the changes already underway to address them. These results will be published on a web page at http://www.scranton.edu/academics/wml/about/assessment/index.shtml.
Bonnie Strohl, LibQUAL+™ Coordinator