Library Philosophy and Practice 2011
Reality versus Expectations: A Survey of University of the Punjab's Libraries Using SERVQUAL
Dr. Kanwal Ameen
Cullen (2001) pointed out that "Modern libraries face crises of survival and development due to advanced modern information management systems and competition from vendors, publishers, mass media, online services and internet". User's expectations have increased as a result of rapid development of advanced information technology, increasing generation of new knowledge and information availability from both printed as well online media. DeSaez (2002) mentioned that there is greater need to satisfy customer’s wants and expectations. Customer care particularly got importance in business and retailing organizations due to social and economic changes in the last 40 years. Efforts should be made to know-what are customer's wants, when they want services, and how they want services.
Assessment of libraries service quality is a first step for exploring customer's perceptions and expectations of a total quality management programme. Improvement of services and application of quality principles is a next step. However, customer is paramount in defining quality of services. Parasuraman, Zeithmal & Berry (1985) also asserted the fact that “quality is based solely on user’s perceptions and all other judgments are irrelevant”. Sey et, al. (1996), found that “quality comes from the people who have used the service and not the service provider; hence the information about quality of services in libraries is of subjective nature” (p. 467). Parasuraman, Zeithmal and Berry (1985) mentioned that service quality perceptions result from comparison of customer’s expectations against perceptions
Perceptions are reality which presents actual situation of organization's services but may be influenced due to internal and external factors. Hernon and Altman (1998) found that" 'Perceptions’ are the impressions formed when an individual encounters with the library” (p. 9). Perceptions are not static, they may change depending on user’s experience moving up with positive experience and down with negative experience. The factors that form user’s perceptions were investigated by Lilly & Usherwood (2000), they found that "user’s experience, past experience, language and present motivational state or goals for the future influence our perception of the present. Past learning has a significant influence on our perception".
On the other hand literature on service quality shows that ‘expectations’ are pre-trial beliefs before experiencing a particular service. Quinn (1997) stated that “customer’s expectations are based on such factors such as personal service philosophy, customer’s personal needs, implicit service promises, word- of- mouth communication and customer’s past experience” (p. 360).
Today libraries particularly university libraries have a dire need to assess user's perceptions and expectations of quality library services in order to redesign their services and reorient their collection. Libraries need to ensure that their services both meet customer’s needs and expectations to the highest degree. Practical tools have also been developed for the assessment of customer's expectations and perceptions of service quality.
Parasuraman, Berry & Zeithmal (1988) first developed the SERVQUAL instrument to measure customer’s expectations and perceptions of service quality. It is a 22 item instrument based on five dimensions possessing different service quality attributes. Users perceived and expected service levels are asked along seven point likert scale. In the beginning, it was widely used in business and retailing organizations for their service quality assessment, but its applications were also known to be found in public sector organizations-higher education institutions, health organizations, libraries, etc. Nitecki (1996) first adapted SERVQUAL instrument for three library services-reference, interlibrary loan and reserve service of an academic library. The five dimensions of service quality as defined by Parasuraman, et al. (1988) are given below:
The 22 statements of questionnaire indicating different service attributes and their relevant dimensions also have been mentioned in Table 1.
Table 1. Service Quality Dimensions and Service Attributes
This section presents the research methods employed to get the objectives of the study. The procedures used for determination of sample size, selection of sample; research design of questionnaire and data collection are discussed. Depending upon the size of population and the time available, the researcher decided to choose ‘User Surveys’ as method of investigation. There are many advantages of using 'Surveys' as a research method as Sea et al (1996) pointed out that "the surveys can easily be distributed to a large number of people and thus enable the researcher to make valid judgments about whole population".
Determination of Sample Size
University of the Punjab has 12 faculties comprising 30,592 students. The targeted population of this study consists of 16,050 students. The researcher used the following formula to determine sample size for the students.
Where ‘N’ is the population size of the research study and ‘n’ is the sample size to be taken and ‘e’ is the degree of the precision in the above mentioned formula. Hence the desired sample size obtained was 390 of the population consisting of 16,050 students.
The type of sampling design used in this study was Stratified Random Sampling. Babbie (2002) defines Stratified sampling as:
The grouping of the units composing a population into homogenous groups (or strata) before sampling. The procedure which may be used in conjunction with simple random, systematic, or cluster sampling, improves the representativeness of a sample at least in terms of the stratification variables (p.52).
The targeted population was stratified into 12 strata of different faculties in the University. The stratifying variable used in this study was ‘Type of Faculty’. Respondents were first classified into homogeneous groups of ‘Faculty of Arts and Humanities’, ‘Faculty of Behavioral & Social Sciences’, ‘Faculty of Economics & Management Sciences’ and so on. After stratification of population into 12 strata each strata was further divided into corresponding departments, institutes, colleges and centers. There are total 66 departments in 12 strata of faculties. There were eight departments in first stratum, four in second stratums and so on.
The required sample size of respondents was proportionally allocated to 12 strata of faculties. Iarossi (2006) provided formula for the proportional allocation of respondents to each stratum has been given as follows:
Where Ni is the population size of the ith stratum, n is the desired sample size of the population, N is the population size and ‘ni’ is the ith stratum sample size. The sample size of the first stratum ‘Faculty of Arts & Humanities’ was determined by using formula given above:
Ni = 390
Ni = 18
As a result, 18 respondents were chosen from the first stratum and selected randomly from the combined list of all 8 Departments of ‘Faculty of Arts & Humanities’. The respondents were proportionally allocated to each stratum of 12 faculties and selected randomly by using random numbers table from each stratum separately. The sampling procedure for the stratification of faculties, selection of respondents through proportional allocation and random selection has been mentioned in detail in Table 2.
Table 2. Proportionally Stratified Random Sampling of Respondents
Questionnaire Design and Data Collection
The researcher used the SERVQUAL instrument' revised version developed by Parasuraman, Zeithmal and Berry (1991) for assessment of user's perceptions and expectations of libraries quality services. The questionnaire contained needed biographic data and a set of 22 statements enquiring the expected and perceived level of services on a scale. The seven point semantic differential scale was used for measuring user’s expectations and perceptions ranging from low of 1 to high of 7. An open ended question was also asked to list their expectations of an ideal library.
Questionnaires were pre tested before their distribution. After respondent’s satisfaction, these were distributed personally amongst students by visiting the departments and libraries. Students were contacted with the assistance of faculty members and library staff. Total 390 questionnaires were distributed and the respondents who returned questionnaires were 338 out of 390. The response rate was quite positive for the study.
Strata Sample Size and Response Rate
The sample of the study comprises 390 students from the 12 faculties of the University of the Punjab. Sample size and response rate is given in Table 3.
The overall response rate was 87%, which is quite good for such a survey. Four incomplete questionnaires were not included for analysis and interpretation. Total 334 questionnaires were included for data analysis, while one of the respondents among 334 did not mention faculty status.
Table 3. Strata Sample Size and Percentage of Response Rate by type of Faculties
1. Which service expectations users consider more significant and want to
2. How were quality library services perceived by university students?
Data Analysis and Results
A total number of 334 students participated in the survey. Females were in a majority 61.4 %, while males were 38 %. Students from different academic programs were included in the sample study and data revealed that a vast majority comprises of bachelors (45.5 %), masters (42.5 %), while MPhil & Ph.D were (9.9 %) and (1.2 %) respectively.
User's expectations of libraries service quality
Parasuraman et al. (1988) defined expectations as “Expectations are desires or wants of consumers, i.e., what they feel a service provider should offer rather than would offer” (p.17). The overall expectations mean (5.9) on a seven point semantic differential scale shows that the users have very high expectations of service quality of the university’s libraries. The expectations of respondents fall in the range of (5.30 to 5.98). The mean and standard deviation of user expectations of all 22 items has been mentioned in Table 4.
Table 4. Quantitative Analysis of Service Quality Expectations: Rank Wise Analysis
Note. Seven point Likert scale ranging from 1 of 'Strongly disagree' to 7 of 'Strongly agree'. Standard Deviation (SD) < 1 depicts that the variation among respondent’s expectations is greater.
Analysis of respondent’s most significant expectations of service quality
Data from Table 3 showed that user’s top six expectations of quality university libraries services are: Library staff who have the knowledge to answer customer’s questions (5.98), Library staff who instill confidence in their users (5.93), Convenient library hours (5.87), Attractive appearance of library materials (5.85), Library staff who have the user’s best interest at heart (5.84), Library staff that have a neat and professional appearance (5.80).
The above mentioned respondent’s expectations revealed that their priority expectations are related to library staff’s knowledge to answer their queries effectively and their ability to develop confidence in users to get better use of library’s resources. They also give preference to attractive appearance of both library materials as well as library staff. Respondents also want that library staff should keep their interests as their foremost priority and opening and closing of libraries according to their desires. The respondent’s high ranked expectations regarding library staff’s different traits show that library should meet these expectations because they mostly encounter with front desk staff. Library staff’s academic knowledge and personality play a vital role in developing an impact on their users.
User's perceptions of libraries service quality
User perception is viewed (Hernon & Altman, 1998) as the impressions formed from library experiences about the library services provided to them. The overall mean (4.64) on a seven point scale shows that user’s perceptions are not high about the service quality of University’s libraries and perceptions mean range from 4.19 to 5.02. The mean and standard deviation of user’s perceptions of 22 items are given in Table 4.
Analysis of respondent’s perceptions of 22 statements of SERVQUAL instrument shows that perceptions are low as compared to their expectations. Although perceptions about service quality can not be said high, but library features which were perceived high from respondent’s opinion in this study are given as follows:
Respondent’s high perceived items of service quality
Table 5 shows among 22 statements of questionnaire, only one service quality attribute which was perceived high from respondent’s opinion is ‘Convenient library hours’ (5.02). It depicts the fact that respondents are satisfied with the opening and closing timings of the libraries.
Other service quality attributes which were perceived somewhat high are: Library staff who have the user’s best interest at heart (4.92), Library staff who understands the need of their users (4.89), Library staff who are consistently courteous (4.83), Library staff who have neat and professional appearance (4.83).
Somewhat high perceptions of respondents indicate that library performance of these service aspects is good from respondent’s opinion. It is important to remember that expectations are in one’s imagination and formed before experience that particular library service, while perceptions are reality and depicts the real performance of library services. Slightly high mean score of these service quality aspects shows that university library’s timings are according to user’s demands. Respondents have positive perceptions about library staff’s taking care of their interests, courteous attitude, their neat dressing, professional look and ability to understand their needs.
Table 5. Quantitative Analysis of Service Quality Perceptions: Rank wise Analysis
Note. Seven point Likert scale ranging from 1 of 'Strongly disagree' to 7 of 'Strongly agree'. Standard Deviation (SD) < 1 depicts that the variation among respondent’s expectations is greater.
Respondent’s Least Perceived Items of Library Service Quality
Respondents perceived ‘Visually Appealing Facilities’ (Mean Score 4.19) and ‘Modern looking Equipment’ (Mean Score 4.25) least. It shows that libraries have lack of modern equipment and visually attractive facilities. These aspects are related to modern technology i.e., computers, online databases and Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) and physically attractive facilities e.g. furniture, photocopier and printer etc. The least mean score indicates that these library items have low quality from respondent’s perspectives and need to be improved drastically.
Content Analysis of User’s Expectations
The respondents were asked through an open-ended question to list their any other expectations, an ideal library should meet. Only 127 out of 334 responded to the question. Response rate (38%) shows that open-ended questions tend to get less response. The expectations of respondents were analyzed using qualitative data analysis software ‘X Sight’.
‘X Sight’ was used for coding, sorting, categorization and reporting of data. The main themes emerged after the initial data analysis of coding, storing and categorization was: physical facilities, library books, modern equipment, library staff, library journals and serials, library timings.
The aspect of library services about which highest number of respondents expressed their expectations was ‘Physical Facilities’. Besides air conditioned libraries, an important feature of physical facilities is ‘Library Space’ which is not up to expectations of respondent’s departmental libraries. The expectations related to physical facilities of libraries have been mentioned in Table 6.
Table 6. Physical Facilities
Seay et al (1996) in a study found that Tangibles has an important impact on user’s perceptions of service quality. Therefore in order to attain high quality service, librarians need to make physical features of libraries up to user’s expectations.
Respondent’s expectations as described in Table 7 regarding collection of books shows that they still feel need for increase in number of current books in the print form with easy access to them.
Table 7. Library Books
The respondent’s expectations in the present study were also obvious in a research study of Nitecki and Hernon (2000), where they want more comprehensive book collection, remote access to collection and proper re shelving of material in a timely manner (p.263).
Respondent’s comments regarding modern equipment in Table 8 shows that they expect good enough number of computers and fast internet quality services. They also desired that libraries should be automated and Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC)
Table 8. Modern Equipment
should be available. It is because all libraries are not automated; hence do not fulfill the user’s needs efficiently. CD’s and audio visuals particularly related to English literature should be provided to students in the institutional library.
Respondents mentioned their expectations regarding library staff. Most of the respondents indicated that"Staff should be humble, polite, courteous and friendly to students". Some respondents also opinioned that there should be more educated, cooperative, well dressed and vigilant staff.
Library Journals and Serials
The respondents expected that latest research and science journals are needed in the library. Some expressed that access to certain journals and thesis should be online but they didn’t specify journals. Some respondents indicated that foreign newspapers should be present in department libraries in spite of their presence in the central library of the University that shows the approach of people is so much convenience wanting regarding serials.
Eleven respondents expressed their expectations regarding better library hours. Respondents mentioned that library hours be increased, but did noy mention a specified time to open the library. Four respondents mentioned that the library should remain open until late in the evening, ranging from 6 p.m to 12 p.m.
Recommendations for the improvement of quality university’s libraries services are given below. Library authorities and university administration must consider these suggestions in order to provide high quality library services.
Steps should be taken to recruit highly competent, educated and IT skilled staff to satisfy user’s increasing needs and expectations. Sufficient budget should be allocated to make physical appearance of departmental library buildings and equipment (furniture) attractive. Libraries should be equipped with modern IT facilities.
Users want easy access to library materials i.e. books, journals, CDs etc. Most of departmental libraries have close shelved system. It must be converted to open shelved for convenient access and browsing of library collection.
The findings of the study revealed that although University of the Punjab's libraries are not exceeding user's expectations as compared to their perceptions. However, respondents have good perceptions about library timings; library staff’s taking care of their interests, courteous attitude, their neat dressing, professional look and ability to understand their needs. Respondents demanded spacious, air conditioned, attractive and neat libraries. They also want more computers with fast internet services, latest editions as well as multiple copies of textbooks and more research and science books.
User's perceptions and expectations of library service quality helps to know where we are, where we should be and what should be done for the improvement of library services. In view of user's perceptions and expectations librarians can review their service policies and take remedial actions to meet user's expectations.
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