What is LibQual+?

What is LibQual?

LibQUAL+ is a Web based survey tool which uses the Gap Theory of Service Quality to ascertain what the users expect from the library service as well as how they perceive the quality of service received. It is a standardised instrument which enables benchmarking at a local, national and international level

What is LibQUAL+?

LibQUAL+ 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 programme’s centerpiece is a rigorously tested web-based survey bundled with training that helps libraries assess and improve library services, change organisational culture, and market the library. The goals of LibQUAL+ are to:

  • Foster a culture of excellence in providing library service
  • Help libraries better understand user perceptions of library service quality
  • Collect and interpret library user feedback systematically over time
  • Provide libraries with comparable assessment information from peer institutions
  • Identify best practices in library service
  • Enhance library staff members’ analytical skills for interpreting and acting on data.

How will LibQUAL+ benefit your institution?

Library administrators have successfully used LibQUAL+ survey data to identify best practices, analyse deficits, and effectively allocate resources. Benefits for your institution could include:

  • Institutional data and reports that enable you to assess whether your library services are meeting user expectations
  • Aggregate data and reports that allow you to compare your library’s performance with that of peer institutions
  • Workshops designed specifically for LibQUAL+ participants
  • Access to an online library of LibQUAL+ research articles and other publications
  • The opportunity to become part of a community interested in developing excellence in library services

How will LibQUAL+ benefit your users?

LibQUAL+ gives your library users a chance to tell you where your services need improvement, so you can respond to and better manage their expectations. You can develop services that better meet your users' expectations by comparing your library's data with that of peer institutions and examining the practices of those libraries that are evaluated highly by their users.

LibQUAL+ Method

Conducting the survey
Details on registration, when you can run the survey, and the Procedures Manual.
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Registration Process
Step-by-step details on how to register for LibQUAL+ for SCONUL participants.
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Pre-Survey Tasks
How to set up the survey, including setting your preferences and customising your survey.
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Running Your Survey
Suggestions on promoting your survey and help on the Representativeness data.
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After the Survey
Understanding and interpreting your results, and how to make the most out of your data.
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More Information
Further useful contacts.
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Background to LibQUAL+

LibQUAL+ is a rigorously tested Web-based survey that helps libraries assess and improve library services, testing library service quality within and across institutions. The LibQUAL+ survey instrument is adapted from an instrument called SERVQUAL, which is grounded in the "Gap Theory of Service Quality" and was developed by the marketing research team of A. Parasuraman, V.A. Zeithaml, and L.L. Berry. The Texas A&M University Libraries and other libraries had been using modified SERVQUAL instruments for several years. These applications showed the need for a newly adapted SERVQUAL protocol that serves the needs of libraries, thus LibQUAL+ was born. The original SERVQUAL instrument was restructured based on a series of interviews with library users. The restructured instrument, called LibQUAL+, was developed by the Texas A&M University and is supported by the Association of Research Libraries.

The LibQUAL+ Questionnaire

The LibQUAL+ survey instrument makes it possible for libraries to canvas their users’ opinions with minimal local effort. It employs a Web interface to ask users about their library service expectations and experience. Library users (and non-users) are given the opportunity to state their minimum ratings for particular areas of the service, their desired ratings and their perceived ratings. The survey uses 22 core questions which are split into three dimensions of Library Service quality: Affect of Service (questions concerning the effectiveness of library staff); Library as Place (questions on the physical environment); and Information Control (questions concerning the ease with which information can be found, e.g. effectiveness of access tools, Web sites etc. and the availability of books and electronic information etc.). A sample screen of the survey can be found here.

Five questions selected by the individual library can also be included, making the survey relevant to local strategic needs. Demographic details are recorded and the final section of the survey enables users to provide free-text comments about the library. These are fed directly back to the library in real time enabling the library to provide a prompt response where appropriate.

Invitations to complete the survey on the LibQUAL+ Web site are sent by the participating library to its population via email. The LibQUAL+ Web site enables the library to monitor the number of responses received in real time. As the number of returns drop a reminder email can be sent out, the impact of which can be seen directly on the Web site.

LibQUAL+ Lite

LibQUAL+ Lite was launched in 2010. This shorter form uses item sampling methods to gather data on all 22 LibQUAL+ core items, while each individual participant responds to only a subset of items. As a consequence, survey response times are roughly cut in half, while the participating institution still receives data on every survey question. Participants can select what percentage of the survey sample will receive the Lite survey form, anywhere from zero to one hundred percent.

On LibQUAL+ Lite, each participant completes only eight of the twenty-two core survey items. Every participant completes the same single Service Affect, single Information Control, and single Library as Place items, plus two of the remaining eight (i.e., nine minus the 1 core item completed by everyone) randomly-selected Service Affect items, two of the remaining seven (i.e., 8 minus the one core item completed by everyone) randomly-selected Information Control items, and one of the remaining four (i.e., five minus the one core item completed by everyone) randomly-selected Library as Place items.

The Local, Outcomes and Satisfaction sections are also reduced in a similar fashion. Respondents are asked to submit the same demographic data and they will have the option of providing comments.

Further information about LibQUAL+ Lite is available here.

Analysis of the Survey

Data from the completed surveys are transmitted directly to the LibQUAL+ database in the US. After the survey closes (as dictated by the library) the results are analysed and reports generated for the participating library. The PDF report of the individual library results is made available within the Management Centre of the LibQUAL+ Web site about two weeks after the library has closed their survey. A copy of the raw data is also supplied in Excel and SPSS format to enable further analysis to be conducted if desired.

Benchmarking of Results

The nature of the fixed-question survey enables institutions to compare results directly. Institutions can compare results with other participating individual libraries or with consortia of similar institutions. SCONUL has had a consortium of member libraries participating in LibQUAL since 2003, which has provided them with a UK Higher Education average score for each question to benchmark against.

Text adapted from the LibQUAL+ Website and proceedures manual, http://libqual.org/home.

The LibQUAL+ SCONUL cohort notebooks back to 2003 can be found here. The notebooks describe aggregated data for all of those institutions that took part in the particular year. Access to this data requires a log-in using your personal account. If you have forgotten your login details, please contact info@sconul.ac.uk

LibQual+ - Experiences