The University of Alabama
University Libraries The University of Alabama LibQUAL+ 2004 Analysis and Action Report
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In spring 2004 for the third consecutive year, the University Libraries conducted the LibQUAL+ survey administered by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). More than 112,000 users at 202 institutions internationally participated in the survey, attesting to the growing acceptance of LibQUAL+ as the "gold standard" benchmarking and assessment tool among academic libraries.

The 2004 survey consisted of 22 questions to measure user perceptions and expectations about three dimensions of library service quality: Affect of Service, i.e., customer service; 2) Information Control, i.e., collections in all formats and access to information; and 3) Library as Place, i.e., comfortable, inviting facilities for individual and group study, research, and learning. 

As in previous years, respondents were asked to score each survey question from the following three perspectives using a 1 (low) to 9 (high) rating scale:  the desired level of service they would like to receive, the minimum level of service that they can accept, and their perception of the level of service the library is providing   Demographic and library use data were also collected.

The Libraries" Service Quality Group coordinated the evaluation at UA and publicized the 2004 LibQUAL+ survey extensively.Twenty incentives were offered: 8 community user cards valued at $20 each, 10 library mugs, and two grand prizes, Apple iPod minis.

Demographics:  The number of University of Alabama participants in 2004 LibQUAL+ survey far exceeded the total number of survey respondents in the either of the previous two years.  Specifically, 725 surveys were completed in 2004. Over 300 surveys included additional comments.   

Of the 725 respondents,

356 were undergraduates (49.1%),

234 were graduate students (32.3%),

109 were faculty members (15.0%),

9 were library staff (1.2%), and

17 were other University staff (2.3%). 

Library Use:  Survey respondents were asked how often they use the library in person and via the web as well as how often they access non-library gateways. Of those responding (n=716) to this question,

  • 18.44% visit the library on a daily basis and 44.27% on a weekly basis.  This compares to 26.39% daily visits and 36.11% weekly visits in 2003 [n=72] and corresponding percentages of 5.73% and 39.07% in 2002 [n=279].
  • 26.54% access library resources through the library's Web pages daily while 43.02% do so weekly.   In 2003, 34.72% accessed resources daily and 33.33% weekly. In 2002, those percentages were 19.71% and 39.78%, respectively.

The percent of 2004 survey respondents who, on a daily basis, use a non-library gateway for information (74.58%) is nearly three times greater than the percent who use the library's Web pages (26.54%) to access library information resources. In 2003, the percent of non-library gateway access users (58.33%) was also higher than the percent accessing the library Web site and library information resources (34.72%). While the increased percentage use of non-library gateways appears dramatic between 2003 and 2004, it is important to note that the 2003 sample size was much smaller than the 2004 sample size. This question was not asked in the 2002 survey.

General Results: Survey respondents scored their general satisfaction with the library on a scale of 1 to 9 (with 9 as highest).  At 7.29, the 2004 mean score for satisfaction with the overall quality of service compares very favorably to 6.89 in 2003 and 6.96 in 2002.

Within the three major categories (Affect of Service, Library as Place, and Information Control), the library's current levels of service exceed Faculty, Graduate Student and Undergraduate users' minimum expectations in nearly all areas. Specifically,

  • All users groups positively rate Affect of Service and Library as Place categories.
  • Undergraduates and graduate students also positively rated the Information Control category
  • For the third year in a row, UA faculty (as well as faculty around the world) reported that Information Control (i.e., print and electronic collections as well as access to information) is inadequate to meet their needs.  

Strengths as Identified by Specific User Groups:  When results are organized by the user's status, we observe the following.

All groups (Faculty, Graduate Students, and Undergraduate Students) agreed on library strengths in the areas of

  • community space for group learning and study;
  • employees who deal with users in a caring fashion; and
  • individual attention given to users.  

Undergraduates rated the following as strong

  • effective interlibrary loan,
  • individual attention given to users, and
  • staff willingness to respond to user questions and to help them.

Graduate students identified the library's strength in providing

  • library locations that are comfortable and inviting "getaways" for study, learning, or research.

Faculty members appreciated

  • quiet space for individual activities, and
  • employees who are consistently courteous.  

Comments:  University of Alabama survey respondents supplied approximately 300 open-ended comments about their perceptions of the quality of service in University Common themes among the survey comments included the following:

  • Librarians are more helpful and knowledgeable than student assistants.
  • There are inconsistencies in the quality of customer service in different libraries and among library employees.
  • Individual library employees are very helpful.
  • Users are pleased with the addition of Java City in Gorgas Library, with laptop circulation service, and with the overall quality of service in the Libraries.  
  • Users want more resources, both electronic and in print. (Sometimes they cited specific disciplines in which they perceive that additional resources are needed.)
  • Users are frustrated with lost and missing books and with materials shelved incorrectly.
  • Users are bothered by noise in the library buildings.
  • Users want additional well-equipped group study rooms in the libraries.
  • Users would like to have more instruction, both online and in the libraries, about how to make better use of library services and resources.

Follow-Up Activities:   Between May 2004 and April 2005, the University Libraries initiated and completed a wide variety of activities directly in response to these survey findings. For details, please see Appendix 1.

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