Customers First: Using Process Improvement to Improve Service Quality and Efficiency

Catherine A. Larson (Associate librarian at the University of Arizona Library, Tucson, Arizona. <>.)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Publication date: 1 April 1998


In this article, Larson introduces the basic components of process improvement, through the framework of a specific library‐related project. Process improvement is a defined and systematic methodology for understanding and improving work taks and systems (processes). When properly implemented, it will streamline work processes, improve productivity, reduce costs, and increase customer satisfaction. In 1995, because of customer complaints, the University of Arizona Library undertook a process improvement project to improve its manual reserve book services. Success would be measured based on the library’s ability to meet customer requirements at the same or lower cost. Staff initially identified two general goals: place materials on reserve in a time frame that met the needs of faculty and students, and improve the quality of service overall. Process improvement methodologies supported a more specific and valid measurement of success than is normally possible, and helped establish a means of continuous data collection and monitoring of the improvements.


Larson, C. (1998), "Customers First: Using Process Improvement to Improve Service Quality and Efficiency", Reference Services Review, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 51-60.

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Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited

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