The University of Alabama
University Libraries The University of Alabama LibQUAL+ 2005 Analysis and Action Report
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In spring 2005 University Libraries participated for the fourth consecutive year in the LibQUAL+ survey administered by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). More than 108,000 users at 199 institutions internationally participated in LibQUAL+ 2005 Session 1, administered from January through May. LibQUAL+ is considered by many to be the “gold standard” benchmarking and assessment tool among academic libraries.

The 2005 survey consisted of questions to measure user perceptions and expectations about library service quality, customer service, print and online collections, electronic access to information, library facilities, satisfaction, and so on.  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 currently provides.


The Libraries’ Service Quality Group coordinated the evaluation at UA and publicized the 2005 LibQUAL+ survey extensively. Two iPod Shuffles were offered as incentives for responding to the survey. Both were awarded to student participants.

Demographics: Eight hundred twelve (812) surveys were completed at UA and used to compile this report. Respondents were divided among user groups as follows:

User Group



Undergraduate Students



Graduate Students



Faculty Members



Library Staff



Other University Staff



Total Respondents




Satisfaction with Service:  Survey respondents scored their general satisfaction in three areas, each on a scale of 1 to 9 (with 9 as highest). The mean scores for all who responded to these questions (n=807) were: 

1) Satisfaction with treatment:  7.36

2) Satisfaction with support:     7.15

3) Overall quality of service:     7.27 

This year’s mean score of 7.27 for satisfaction with the overall quality of service reflects a slight drop from the mean score of 7.29 in 2004 and an increase over the mean scores of 6.89 in 2003 and 6.96 in 2002.     

Library Use: Survey respondents were asked how often they use the library, both on the premises and electronically. Of those responding to the question (n=807), 18% visit the library on a daily basis and 43% on a weekly basis. On a daily basis, 21% access library resources through the library’s Web pages while 74% use a non-library gateway for information.  Those who reported using library resources on a daily or weekly basis recorded higher satisfaction levels than those who reported monthly or quarterly usage.

Service Quality:  The questions of LibQUAL+ survey instrument are grouped according to three “dimensions” of service quality: Affect of Service (Customer Service), Information Control, and Library as Place.   Using a scale from 1 (low) to 9 (high), respondents rated each of 22 specific qualities based on their desired level of service for that quality, their minimum acceptable level of service quality, and their perception of the current level of service quality.  ARL provided mean scores for the various levels of service for each demographic group individually and also for all groups combined. The table below shows the mean scores for all respondents as a single group.

University of Alabama

All Respondents

Desired Level of Service

Minimum Acceptable Level of Service

Perceived Current Level of Service

Affect of Service




Information Control




Library as Place









Within these three dimensions, the library’s current levels of service exceed faculty, graduate student, and undergraduate users’ minimum expectations in nearly all areas.  Specifically,

  • All user groups rated Affect of Service and Library as Place qualities positively.
  • Graduate students and undergraduates also rated Information Control positively.
  • As in previous LibQUAL+ surveys, UA faculty (as well as faculty around the world) reported that Information Control (i.e., print and electronic collections, including access to that information) is inadequate to meet their needs.

Specific Service Strengths Identified by Each User Group:   Analyzing the survey results according to users’ status, the following observations were made

All groups (faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates) agreed that the library strengths lie in  

  • Providing community space for group learning and group study.
  • Having a comfortable and inviting location.
  • Giving users individual attention.

Undergraduates also rated the library high on

  • Employee willingness to help others.
  • Making electronic resources accessible from home or lab

Graduate students identified additional strengths in

  • Employees who instill confidence in users.
  • Employees who deal with users in a caring fashion.

Faculty members appreciated

  • Quiet space for individual activities.
  • Library space that inspires study and learning.

Gap Analysis:  The Service Quality Group further analyzed the results of the survey by identifying the gap between the minimum acceptable and the desired levels of service, and the relative position the perceived current level of service, expressed as a percentage of the gap size.  For example, a percentage of 75% would indicate that the libraries fill 75% of the gap between minimum and desired levels of service.  In a few cases, users rated specific items below their minimum acceptable level, resulting in a negative percentage and indicating that the library was not meeting the user’s minimum acceptable needs in those areas.   (Specifically and as mentioned above, faculty needs for print and electronic collections and for access to that information are not being met.)  The higher the percentage, the better the library is meeting the needs of the users.

Among the specific aspects of Library as Place and Affect of Service, the libraries are closest to meeting users’ desired level of service related to

  • Community space for group learning and group study [75.21%, the percentage by which the perceived current service fills the gap between the minimum and desired levels of service]
  • Giving users individual attention [60.26%]
  • A comfortable and inviting location [58.03%]
  • Willingness to help others  [52.99%]
  • Employees who deal with users in a caring fashion [49.77%]


On the other end of the spectrum, the following services received the lowest percentages, indicating that the libraries are meeting relatively fewer service expectations.

  • Print and/or electronic journal collections I require for my work [14.00%]
  • The printed library materials I need for my work [21.28%]
  • A library Web site enabling me to locate information on my own [32.92%]
  • Easy-to-use access tools that allow me to find things on my own [34.15%]
  • Employees who have the knowledge to answer user questions [34.74%]


Comments:  The Service Quality Group identified common themes among the nearly 400 survey participant comments.  These themes resonated with the quantitative results from the ratings part of the survey.  Specifically, users identified needs for more

              1.  Study areas that are quiet and comfortable.

              2.  Accurate cataloging and shelving.

              3.  User-friendly and easier electronic access.

              4.  Service, public relations, and staff training.

              5.  Collections (particularly electronic).

Recommendations for Further Action: In the five general areas identified above as common themes requiring further action, the Service Quality Group developed the following recommendations:

Study Areas (quiet and comfortable)

  • Designate in each library at least one silent study area; have appropriate signage made and posted.
  • Explore providing a mix of types of seating in silent study area(s) in each library.
  • Identify locations within each library building in which cell phone use is restricted; have appropriate signage made and posted.

Accurate Cataloging and Shelving

  • Continue and complete shifting in Gorgas, inventory in Bruno and McLure, and identification of lost items in all libraries; progress report to SQG in 6 months.

Ease of E-access

  • Determine who owns each page, communicate expectations for maintenance to content providers, and deliver training to content providers. (Web Site Committee)
  • Review results of focus group; make changes. (Web Site Committee)
  • Conduct usability study with Shelton State.  (Web Site Committee)
  • Work with public services librarians to customize searchable databases.
  • Continue refinement of Article Linker.

Services & Public Relations/Staff Training

  • Address issues of customer service, including noise generated by staff, at the department/unit level.

Collections (particularly electronic)

  • Continue collection assessment and the fine-tuning of collections to better meet faculty and graduate student needs.

The associate deans were responsible for evaluating and overseeing implementation of these suggested action items.  As a committee, the Service Quality Group monitored and recorded the improvements in library service quality which result from information gathered through the 2005 LibQUAL+ survey.       

For details, please see the Appendix.


Submitted by the Service Quality Group

Martha Bace (beginning January 12, 2006)

Jim Blansett

Karen Chapman

Karen Croneis

Pat Henderson (through May 5, 2006)

Kate Ragsdale, co-chair

Janice Simpson, co-chair

 June 2006

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