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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
LibQUAL+® and beyond: library assessment with a focus on library improvement
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Performance Measurement and Metrics, Volume 9, Issue 3
From 2000 to 2008 LibQUAL+® has been implemented in 22 different countries and 15 different languages. LibQUAL+TM is a suite of services that libraries use to solicit, track, understand, and act upon users’ opinions of service quality. These services are offered to the library community by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). The history of the development of the protocol is succinctly described in The Origins and Birth of LibQUAL+® by Bruce Thompson: www.libqual.org/About/Birth/index.cfm
The program’s centerpiece is a rigorously tested web-based survey bundled with training that helps libraries assess and improve library services, change organizational culture, and market the library. LibQUAL+® is different from your typical local survey because LibQUAL+® allows you to benchmark with other libraries. You have access to all the results from the other participants and you can use them to explore and understand best practices.
LibQUAL+® is also unique in offering a measurement model that tracks users’ minimum and desired expectations in addition to users’ perceptions of library service quality. This way you can tell whether your services are meeting user’s minimum expectations or exceed users’ desired expectations. Understanding the strengths and areas where improvement is needed helps libraries address improvements in more effective ways. Libraries can allocate resources more wisely by focusing on areas where improvements are noticed by library users. Is it library as space that needs improvement? Is it more access to content? Or is it better staffing? The protocol can be a building block in strengthening library assessment activities. LibQUAL+® can be the foundation for building excellence in library services to enhance the learning outcomes of our library users.
The first article “Drilling the LibQUAL+® data for strategic planning” by E. Stewart Saunders comes from Purdue University, located in the heartland of the USA, a major land grant university. Purdue integrated LibQUAL+® with their strategic planning process and this narrative describes both the challenges and the opportunities staff encountered during this process. Much like other assessment techniques, LibQUAL+® focuses on where you are now. Understanding and charting where you want to be five years down the road needs to be based on a thorough assessment of the present and built on professional insights, judgments, and collective will about shaping a shared future.
In “Getting our priorities in order: are our service values in line with the communities we serve?” by Jocelyn Duffy, Damon Jaggars, and Shanna Smith, the authors define “priority scores” for each of the 22 core LibQUAL+® items to examine how well the service priorities of library staff are aligned with the priorities of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. The goal is to promote discussion among library staff about users’ needs and how closely staff service priorities align with those needs. Results indicate that service priorities for library staff align more closely with those of undergraduates than with those of graduate students and faculty. Identifying misalignments can provide useful direction for creating and maintaining service profiles that more closely map to users’ stated needs. Currently, we see many libraries reorganizing themselves targeting services to different user groups, undergraduates, graduates and faculty, based on their priorities.
In “Library assessment on a budget: using effect size meta-analysis to get the most out of the library-related survey data available across campus” by Eric Ackermann, the author describes a method that allows you to compare results from different and disparate surveys across campus. Effect size meta-analysis is a statistical method used to combine such disparate results. The method is examined as a practical, sustainable, and effective library assessment technique using data from Radford University. In particular the article demonstrates how you can compare LibQUAL+® survey results with other locally developed surveys, in this case the Radford University Undergraduate Exit surveys. Effect size meta-analysis is an effective way to synthesize data from pre-existing library surveys as well data from non-library-related surveys.
In “How you can evaluate the integrity of your library service quality assessment data: intercontinental LibQUAL+® analyses used as concrete heuristic examples” by Bruce Thompson, Martha Kyrillidou and Colleen Cook, the authors accomplish two purposes:
Provide practical examples of conducting validity and reliability analysis.
Explore the validity and reliability of the LibQUAL+® survey scores in British English, Dutch, Swedish, Continental French, German, Norwegian, Finnish and Danish. LibQUAL+® translations are remarkably valid and reliable across all these languages.
In “LibQUAL+® (library quality), ProSeBiCA (development of new library services by means of conjoint analysis), and CAPM (comprehensive access to printed materials)” by Sayeed Choudhury, Martha Kyrillidou, Fred Heath, Colleen Cook, Bettina Koeper, and Reinhold Decker, the authors place LibQUAL+® in the context of other assessment efforts that attempt to improve library services.
The above articles were presented at the Library Assessment Conference at Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2006. The proceedings from that event are available online at: http://libraryassessment.org/bm ∼ doc/proceedings-lac-2006.pdf The Library Assessment Conference, co-sponsored by ARL, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington, takes place every two years and offers opportunities for a community of practice to flourish. Similar purposes are also served by the Northumbria Conference on Performance Measurement and Metrics and the Evidence-based Library and Information Practice Conference.
The concluding article in this volume was presented at the Evidence-based Library and Information Science Conference at Durham in North Carolina in 2007. The article takes a broader look at library assessment and summarizes the work the authors have done in many different library settings over a period of years by visiting different libraries and identifying key organizational factors that strengthen library services and assessment. LibQUAL+® and usability studies are the two methods that have had the greatest impact in the library assessment scene over the recent past. Leadership is identified as the major key organizational factor that influences effective, sustainable, and practical assessment.
The present collection of articles complements and provides an updated perspective on the special issue of Performance Measurement and Metrics published in 2002 and edited by Colleen Cook on “The maturation of assessment in academic libraries: the role of LibQUAL+®.” Clearly, the field has moved dramatically over the fast-paced recent years, and library cultures themselves have changed to acknowledge the importance of assessment and understanding users’ perceptions and needs.