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. Service Quality Assessment in a Digital Library Environment. 4 th International JISC/CNI Conference. Edinburgh, Scotland June 27, 2002. Joseph Boykin, Fred Heath, Duane Webster. Overview of Discussions. New Models for Understanding and Describing Library Success

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service quality assessment in a digital library environment

Service Quality Assessment in a Digital Library Environment

4th International JISC/CNI Conference

Edinburgh, Scotland

June 27, 2002

Joseph Boykin, Fred Heath, Duane Webster


Overview of Discussions

  • New Models for Understanding and Describing Library Success
  • ARL’s New Measures Initiative
  • LibQUAL+ Project Development
  • Experience with LibQUAL+
  • Conclusions and Next Steps

The Association of Research Libraries

Mission: Shaping and influencing forces affecting the

future of research libraries in the process of

scholarly communication.

Members: 123 major research libraries in North America.

Ratios: 4% of the higher education institutions

providing 40% of the information resources.

Users: 3 million students and faculty served.

Expenditures: $2.35 billion annually, $727 million for

acquisitions of which 9% is invested in access

to electronic resources.



The Problem of Assessment in Research Libraries

  • ARL Membership Criteria Index variables emphasize inputs, primarily expenditures
  • To rise in the ARL Index it is only necessary to spend more
  • No demonstrable relationship between expenditures and service quality
  • The lack of metrics describing performance

ARL New Measures Initiative

  • Collaboration among member leaders with strong interest in this area
  • Specific projects developed with different models for exploration
  • Intent to make resulting tools and methodologies available to full membership and wider community

ARL New Measures Projects

  • Demonstration project for service effectiveness measures (LibQUAL+)
  • Project to define usage measures for electronic information resources (includes institutional outcomes)
  • Investigation of role libraries play in support of the research process
  • Investigation of role libraries can play in campus learning outcomes activities
  • Identification of cost-drivers and development of cost-benefit studies

“The difficulty lies in trying to find a single model or set of simple indicators that can be used by different institutions, and that will compare something across large groups that is by definition only locally applicable –i.e., how well a library meets the needs of its institution. Librarians have either made do with oversimplified national data or have undertaken customized local evaluations of effectiveness, but there has not been devised an effective way to link the two” Sarah Pritchard, Library Trends, 1996


LibQUAL+™ Description

  • LibQUAL+TM is a research and development project undertaken to define and measure library service quality across institutions and to create useful quality-assessment tools for local planning.
the purpose of our research
The Purpose of Our Research
  • To fill a knowledge void in modeling the dimensions of library service quality from a user perspective
  • Based upon the model, to develop a web-delivered, effective total market survey instrument equivalent for service quality assessment in academic libraries
  • Using the derived instrument to recommend a process for an ongoing program of comparative outcome measurement for academic libraries

LibQUAL+™ Project Goals

  • Development of web-based tools for assessing library service quality
  • Development of mechanisms and protocols for evaluating libraries
  • Identification of best practices in providing library service
  • Establishment of a library service quality assessment program at ARL

Project Resources

  • LibQUAL+TM is an ARL/Texas A&M University joint effort. The project is supported in part by a 3-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE).


  • ARL
  • Duane Webster
  • Martha Kyrillidou
  • Kaylyn Hipps
  • Julia Blixrud
  • Jonathan Sousa
  • Consuella Waller
  • TAMU
  • Fred Heath
  • Colleen Cook
  • Bruce Thompson
  • Yvonna Lincoln
  • Trey Thompson
  • Julie Guidry

LibQUAL+TM Project History


Sept. 1999

Sept. 2000

July 2000

Oct. 2000

Jan. 2001

June 2001

9/99 - ARL launches “New Measures Initiative” which includes the study of service effectiveness known as SERVQUAL spearheaded by Texas A&M University.

1/00 - Initial 12 institutions begin the SERVQUAL study led by the Texas A&M team.

7/00 - LibQUAL+ as a distinct library-based assessment tool is presented.

9/00 - ARL and Texas A&M awarded a FIPSE grant to fund further development of the LibQUAL+ project.

10/00 - The ARL symposium, “New Culture of Assessment in Academic Libraries Measuring Service Quality” attracts a group of 170 people.

1/01 - Representatives from 43 research and university libraries participating in the Spring 2001

Implementation meet in Washington, DC during ALA midwinter.

6/01 - National Science Foundation awards grant to ARL and Texas A&M to adapt LibQUAL+

for NSDL


LibQUAL+™ Contribution

  • Grounded questions yield data of sufficient granularity to be of local use
  • Normative data across cohort group at first and higher order levels
  • Surfaces “Best Practices”
  • Web approach makes little demand of local resources while compiling robust dataset

Relationships: perceptions, service quality and satisfaction

….only customers judge quality;

all other judgments are essentially


Zeithaml, Parasuraman, Berry. (1999).

Delivering quality service. NY: The Free Press.


LibQUAL+TM Participants

Year 3

Year 2

170 Participants

43 Participants

Year 1

12 Participants

Spring 2000

Spring 2001

Spring 2002

For More Information about Participants:

Visit the LibQUAL+ web site.





Dimensions of Library

Service Quality


LibQUAL+ Core Questions Y1


Factor_ ______ _

No. I II III IV Item Core


32 .84947 .12848 .24465 .13335 1 Willingness to help users

33 .80847 .13662 .25348 .14147 1 Giving users individual attention

7 .80757 .17881 .12781 .21125 1 Employees deal with users caring fashion

50 .79273 .19288 .18847 .12497 1 Employees who are consistently courteous

31 .77262 .16358 .26461 .20061 1 Employees have knowledge answer questions

5 .74072 .14754 .18453 .29624 1 Employees understand needs of users

3 .74052 .15102 .17296 .20793 1 Readiness to respond to users' questions

18 .71718 .19757 .18289 .26766 1 Employees who instill confidence in users

43 .62487 .22402 .29970 .28256 0 Dependability handling service problems

20 .16556 .87679 .11430 .16236 2 A haven for quiet and solitude

2 .17739 .83172 .08498 .13901 2 A meditative place

19 .22362 .83147 .14705 .22566 2 A contemplative environment

25 .16013 .80492 .18894 .16628 2 Space that facilitates quiet study

41 .20398 .80204 .17599 .20255 2 A place for reflection and creativity

37 .22528 .12353 .78405 .15466 * website enabling me locate info on my own

28 .19602 .09611 .75780 .13173 * elec resources accessible home or office

14 .33339 .16156 .60389 .31109 * access tools allow me find on my own

45 .30467 .23784 .59090 .28919 3 Modern equip me easily access info I need

17 .35390 .18467 .55690.41864 * info easily accessible for independent use

29 .30136 .21018 .55341.38474 4 Convenient access to library collections

11 .13494 .23183 .18868 .73636 3 Comprehensive print collections

39 .14894 .23743 .29367 .60350 3 Complete runs of journal titles

16 .29445 .19831 .22384 .60107 3 Interdisciplinary library needs addressed

9 .27782 .05333 .16331 .57866 4 Timely document delivery/interlibrary loan

8 .22850 .18484 .13137 .56343 0 Convenient business hours



Affect of Service

  • Emerged as the dominant factor early in our work
  • Absorbed several of the original SERVQUAL questions measuring Responsiveness, Assurance and Empathy
  • In the current analysis also includes Reliability
  • All in all: the Human Dimension of Service Quality

Library as Place

  • Transcends the SERVQUAL dimension of Tangibles to include the idea of the library as the campus center of intellectual activity
  • As long as physical facilities are adequate, library as place may not be an issue

Personal Control

  • How users want to interact with the modern library
  • Personal control of the information universe in general and web navigation in particular
access to information
Access to Information
  • Ubiquity of access: information delivered in the format, location and time of choice
  • Comprehensive collections

Project Deliverables

  • Print and web-based results include:
    • Aggregate Summaries
    • Demographics by Library
    • Item Summaries
    • Dimension Summaries
    • A copy of the survey instrument
    • Dimensions measured for survey implementation

Two Interpretation Frameworks

  • Score Norms
  • Zone of Tolerance

Score Norms

  • Norm Conversion Tables facilitate the interpretation of observed scores using norms created for a large and representative sample.
  • LibQUAL+TM norms have been created at both the individual and institutional level


Zone of Tolerance

  • The area between minimally acceptable and desired service quality ratings
  • Perception ratings ideally fall within the Zone of Tolerance

LibQUAL+™ Fundamental Contributions to the Measurement of Effective Delivery of Library Services

  • Determine the degree to which information derived from local data can be generalized, providing much needed “best practices” information
  • Demonstrate the efficacy of large-scale administration of user-centered assessment transparently across the web
  • Shift the focus of assessment from mechanical expenditure-driven metrics to user-centered measures of quality
  • Re-ground gap theory for the library sector, especially academic libraries

NSF Grant

  • Assess service quality in digital libraries
  • 3 year period
  • Adopt LibQUAL+ instrument for use in the Science, Math, Engineering and Technology Education Digital Library community (NSDL)


  • Define dimensions of digital library service quality from the users’ perspectives
  • Develop tool for measuring user perceptions and expectations of digital library service quality across NSDL digital library contexts
  • Identify digital library best practices that permit generalizations across operations and development platforms

NDSL LibQUAL+ Activities

  • 120-200 qualitative interviews to contribute to identifying dimensions of digital library service quality
  • Test and refine dimensions of digital library service quality and self-sufficiency through development of total market survey
  • Implement survey across variety of organizational and digital library implementations

LibQUAL+TM Related Documents

  • LibQUAL+TM Web Site
  • LibQUAL+TM Bibliography
  • Survey Participants Procedures Manual

LibQUAL+Related Documents

  • LibQUAL+Web Site
  • LibQUAL+Bibliography