Library Philosophy and Practice 2012
Understanding the Expectations of Pakistani Libraries Users: A LibQUAL Study
Shafiq Ur Rehman
The conventional services and traditional role of university libraries is changed due to multiple sources of information, high demand of users, and application of information technology, competition among service sectors and high student enrolments. The university libraries are also facing different challenges such as advances in information technology, rising cost of material, increased accessibility of research materials via the Web and tentative budget allocations.
Each of these challenges requires library administration to become more concerned of their users' expectations. "Retaining and growing their customer base and focusing more energy on meeting their customers' expectations is the only way for academic libraries to survive in this volatile competitive environment" (Cullen, 2001, pp. 662-663). The understanding of users' expectations and meeting those expectations is the only way for libraries to retain their users. Assessment of library service quality helps in identifying users' needs, wants and decreasing the gap between users' perceptions and expectations. It also provides users' feedback in order to improve the quality of library services.
The central role of users in assessment of service quality has been recognizing and "only customers judge quality; all other judgments are essentially irrelevant" (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1988). Many researchers (Chweh, 1981; Hernon & McClure, 1986; Hernon & McClure, 1990; Nitecki, 1996; Oldman, Mary, & Wills, 1977; Taylor & Voigt, 1986; Whitehall, 1992)advocates that the user is the best judge to assess the quality of the services. The traditional method of service quality has become obsolete and no more fulfills the purpose of user's demands for information. Nitecki (1996) further added "a measure of library quality based solely on collections has become obsolete" (p. 182). Currently the service quality defines as "difference between customer's perceptions and expectations" (Parasuraman, et al., 1988).
In this regard, library authorities should recognize the different needs, priorities and feedback of library users. All current and future library services must be user-centred. Library administration should consider the assessment of services as an important aspect for establishing right goals and policies. Library should not function in total isolation from its users' expectations. Libraries decision makers should know the users' expectations to improve the quality of services offered (Scott, 1992).
The establishment of Higher Education Commission (HEC) in 2002 started the rapid expansion of Pakistani university libraries. The libraries enrollment within the universities have increased, the methods of learning have changed, science and technology have grown and the library became recognized as an important source of learning. The importance of user-centered approach in libraries services has increased. However, in spite of rising expectations for enhanced library services in universities of Pakistan, there has been no study conducted among the users to investigate their expectations on the libraries services quality.
It seems to be very interesting and useful to investigate the minimum and desired expectations of students and university professors within the university library setting.
Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this study with reference to assessment of library service quality in university libraries of Pakistan are:
1) To identify the minimum expectations of graduates, undergraduates and faculty.
2) To investigate the desire expectations of graduates, undergraduates and faculty.
3) To check the significant difference between minimum expectations and desired expectations.
Expectations with Library Services
Expectations are "desires or wants of consumers, i.e., what they feel a service provider should offer rather than would offer" (Parasuraman, et al., 1988, p. 17). Many researchers (Heath & Cook, 2003; Shi, Holahan, & Jurkat, 2004) agreed that expectations serve as reference points in customers' evaluation of performance.
The expectations have different meaning both in customer satisfaction and service quality literature. In customer satisfaction literature, the term is used to identify predictions. Expectations are considered in terms of what a service would offer (Nitecki, 1995). In the service quality literature expectations are viewed as desires or wants of consumers; the term refers to what a service firm should ideally provide (Boulding, et al., 1993; Parasuraman, et al., 1985, 1988).
To, Zeithaml, Berry, and Parasuraman (1993), customer's expectations are based on the previous experiences, word-of-mouth communications, overt and covert services promised by an organization. In addition, the desired expectations should also base on enduring service intensifiers and personal needs.
Zeithaml, et al. (1993) found that users do not have one level of expectation, but two levels (types): "minimum expectations" and "desire expectations". Desire expectations are users' ideal expectations that they wish to receive from library and "minimum expectations" are level of service that users consider as adequate. The range between minimum and desire expectations is called zone of tolerance (ZOT) with desired expectations at the top and minimum expectations at the bottom of the scale. The primary objective of service quality assessment is to minimize the gap between users' expectations and actual service delivery.
As Berry (1995) described, there are eleven ways to listen the customers: transactional surveys, mystery shopping, new declining and lost customer surveys, focus group interviews, customer advisory panels, service reviews, customer complaint, comment, inquiry capture, total market surveys, employee field reporting, employee surveys and service operating data capture (Berry as cited in Cook, Heath, Thompson, & Thompson, 2001). The LibQUAL Protocol is one of the most widely used and effective way to know the opinion of library users.
LibQUAL is a well-known and recognized instrument that libraries use to "solicit, track, understand, and act upon users' opinions of service quality" (Association of Research Libraries, 2010). More than 1.5 million library users from twelve hundred libraries have participated in LibQUAL since its inception. The instrument was developed in collaboration between ARL and Texas A&M University. LibQUAL instrument is an attractive tool to easily identify service quality from the customer perspective. The instrument measures library service quality through 22 core questions on three dimensions: affect of service, information control and library as place. Currently, LibQUAL supports 18 languages of the world: "Afrikaans, American English, British English, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French (France), French (Belgian), French (Canadian), German, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish and Welsh" (Kyrillidou, 2011).
LibQUAL survey instrument is based on conceptual framework on SERVQUAL scale which defines the service quality as "the difference between customers' perceptions and expectations" using disconfirmation/confirmation theory. The LibQUAL developers start modification and refinement in SERVQUAL for academic library context as its five structure dimensions were not established in academic library context (Cook & Heath, 2001b; Cook & Thompson, 2000; Nagata, Satoh, Gerrard, & Kytömäki, 2004; Nitecki, 1995; Yu, Hong, Gu, & Wang, 2008). As a result of various refinements the current LibQUAL version measures library service quality through 22 core questions on three dimensions: Affect of service (AS), information control (IC), and library as place (LP).
The AS dimension consists of nine questions related to courtesy, knowledge and helpfulness of library staff in delivering user services. The IC dimension addresses (through eight questions) on the adequacy of print and electronic collection, easy-to-use access tools, modern equipments, library website and self reliance in information access. The third, LP dimension focuses on user perceptions of quiet, comfortable, inviting and reflective study space that inspires study and learning. Users rate all LibQUAL items on three columns side by side on 1(low) to 9 (high) scales for "perception", "desire", and "minimum" services.
Research on User Expectations
The minimum and desired service expectations can be considered as an indicator of the importance of that type of service to the users (Wilson, 2004). Library can determine the most important areas for service improvement by identifying the items that ranked highest score by users on minimum /desired service level.
Among three service quality dimensions, findings of various studies (Cook, Heath, Thompson, & Webster, 2003; Hubbard & Walter, 2005; Jaggars, Jaggars, & Duffy, 2009; Boyd-Byrnes & Rosenthal, 2005; Kyrillidou & Persson, 2006; Lippincott & Kyrillidou, 2004; Shedlock & Walton, 2004; Wilson, 2004) suggest that users have high expectations (especially faculty and graduate students) about information control. On the contrary, users have low expectations about library as place dimension (except undergraduate).
Unlike developed world, few studies (Arshad, 2009; Cook et al., 2008, 2009b; Cook et al., 2010a; Seay, Seaman, & Cohen, 1996) from France and developing countries reported highest desired score for LP dimension. Most of studies (Cook, Heath, & Thompson, 2001; Dole, 2002; Hariri & Afnani, 2008; Johnson, 2007; Sharma, et al., 2010; Thompson, Kyrillidou, & Cook, 2007) did not find significant difference on perceived service quality on the basis of gender and user types. However, users were significantly differed on the basis of academic disciplines and library sector.
Expectations of Pakistani Users
In Pakistan library service quality is an unfamiliar topic and practices of regular assessment of library service quality do not exist. Usually university library performance is assessed from various statistics presented in annual report submitted to university administration. These statistics consists of number of collections, staff, library members as well as various usage counts (numbers of borrowed books and visitors). Only two research studies that explored users' expectations were found.
Arshad (2009) investigated users' expectation with departmental libraries of Punjab University (PU). She found that PU users considered tangibles (physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication materials) the most important and empathy the least important dimension. The highest expectations items were: "library staff has the knowledge to answer customer's questions", "library staff who instill confidence in their users", "convenient library hours". In another study (Awan, Azam and Asif , 2008) the users' highest expected services were: "I feel safe in my transactions with library", "library services are provided in the promised time" and "staff members of library are always willing to help you". Both studies did not measure users' minimum acceptable service level.
Despite the plenitude of literature on library service quality in the developed countries, there are no data available on users' minimum and desired expectations with quality of service offered by the university libraries (central) of Pakistan. This research study was conducted to fill the gap by measuring the minimum and desired expectations with service quality of university libraries of Pakistan from their users' perspective.
The questionnaire based cross-sectional survey research design was employed in this research study. A sample of 426 faculty members, 501 graduate students, and 546 undergraduates in different gender, age, discipline, sector and qualification were conveniently selected from 22 University Libraries of Pakistan (ULP). A slightly modified version of LibQUAL (American English) was translated into Urdu language using standard procedure of forward-backward translation. After the pre-testing of the instrument, data were collected face to face on a self-reporting interactive mode. The psychometric properties of translated instrument were established through cronbach alpha, exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA).
Factor analysis result suggested three dimensions of library service quality: IC, AS and LP. The first dimension (IC) which consisted on adequacy, organization, access of library collection to meet users' needs and self-reliance of library users (8 items). The AS dimension (8 items) covered human aspect of library services and was concerned with abilities, skills and attitude of library staff for delivery of services. The five items of LP dimensions were related to study space and symbolic nature of library.
The Cronbach's alpha coefficient result showed that all three dimensions of LibQUAL had high internal consistency and reliability in Pakistani context because Cronbach Alpha (Cronbach, 1951)coefficients for AS, IC and LP scales and total scale were equal to .931, .931, .814 and .943 respectively that were adequately greater than the recommended value of 0.7 (Nunnally, 1978). Thus final instrument consisted of 21 core questions, 6 demographic questions and one comment box. Users rated 21 core items on three columns side by side on 1 (low) to 9 (high) scales for minimum and desired expectation scores.
Data Collection and Results
Demographic Characteristics of Respondents
A total of 1473 responses were received with 91% response rate. Acquired responses revealed that 66% of the respondents were male and 34% female; 34% were graduate students, 37% were under graduate students, and 29% were faculty members. A majority (60%) of the respondents were from the public sector libraries and 40% from the private universities.
Users' Expectations with Library Services
The high minimum and desired expectations mean score could be described as the level of importance a user gives to various services. We will discuss both types of expectations.
The minimum expectations are level of service that users consider as adequate and this score represents their minimum level of service that users will tolerate or willinging to accept. The services performed below users' minimum expectations could create disappointment, frustration and dissatisfaction as well as decrease their loyalty and reliability.
We ranked all services (from the highest to the lowest) based on minimum mean score for individual user groups and overall user group. For overall user group, the five services having highest minimum expectations were mostly related to LP dimension. These items were: "comfortable and inviting location"; "inspiring study space"; "a gateway for study"; "quiet space for individual activities and courteous staff"" (see Table 1). This means that services related to library space are important for users.
Table 1. Minimum Expectations of Overall User Group
Note: 1(low), 9(high) *SD: Standard Sub-division
The five services having lowest minimum expectations were mostly related to AS dimension. These items were: "individual attention to the users"; "confidence in users"; "library staff is always ready to respond to users' questions"; "library staff shows dependability in handling users' service problems"; "electronic resources of the library are accessible from my home or office". The lowest mean score items demonstrated that users did not give high importance to staff related services.
All three individual user groups (faculty, graduates and undergraduates) unanimously ranked "The library has comfortable and inviting location; the library is a getaway for study, learning, or research; and the library has quiet space for individual activities" among five services having highest minimum expectations (see Table 2). Additionally, both students and teachers rated three staff related services (library staff gives individual attention to the users; library staff instill confidence in users) among their lowest priorities (see Table 2).
Table 2. Minimum Expectations of faculty, graduates and undergraduates
Note: 1(low), 9(high) *M mean = minimum expectation mean
Users' Desired Expectations
The high desired mean score could be described as the level of importance that the user gives to various services. We ranked all services (from the highest to the lowest) based on desire mean score for individual user groups and overall user group. For overall user group, the five desired items were mostly related to LP dimension. These items were: "the library has comfortable and inviting location"; "the library has space that inspires study and learning"; "library staff is consistently courteous" and "the library has quiet space for individual activities" (see Table 3).
Table 3. Desired Expectations of Overall User Group
Note: 1(low) 9(high), SD=standard deviation
All three individual user groups (faculty, graduates and undergraduates) unanimously ranked "the library has comfortable and inviting location" and "the library has space that inspires study and learning" as a two most desired items (see Table 4) The faculty further ranked two items: "the library has electronic information resources, I need"; and "the library has print and/or electronic journal collections, I require for my work" among the top five expectations. It seems that faculty also wanted electronic and journal collections along with comfortable place for study and research. We also found interesting that "library staff instill confidence in users" and "library staff gives individual attention to the users" were ranked as lowest desired, unanimously by all user groups. It seems that users gave the least preference to personal attention and confidence from library staff.
Minimum and Desired Expectation on Service Quality Dimensions
We also checked the relative importance of service quality dimensions for overall and individual group of users. The highest mean score on minimum and desired level for overall and individual user showed LP as the most important and AS the least important dimensions. The IC was considered moderately important (see Table 5). The results of pair sample t-test (see Tables 5 and 6) showed that library users' minimum expectations were significantly different than desire expectations on all service items and dimensions. Users did not have similar demand for minimum and desired level. Thus their adequate (minimum) demand was different from their ideal (desire) demand. They were willing to accept comparatively lower level of minimum service than their desired level.
Table 5. Dimension wise difference between desire and minimum expectations
Note: 1(low), 9(high) *significant at .05 level **M mean = minimum expectation mean *D mean = desired expectation mean
Table 6. Difference between Minimum and Desire expectations
Note: 1(low), 9(high) *Significant at .05 level **M mean = minimum expectation mean
***D mean = desired expectation mean
The examination of minimum and desire expectation provided in Tables 1-4 revealed that users considered LP as the most important and AS as the least important service quality dimension. The IC was considered moderately important. The finding revealed that user wanted (on priority) electronic and print collection resources that match their needs. They also needed modern equipment for easy access of their needed information. They wished comfortable and good place for individual and group learning. In the case of service problem, they wanted polite and willing staff to help them. Overall users expected (m = 7.52) high level of service quality. Among three user groups, faculty had the highest minimum (m = 5.81) and desired expectations (m = 7.71) and graduates had the lowest minimum (m = 5.69) and desired expectations (m = 7.34).
Discussions of Results
Users' expectations of library services were identified through minimum and desire mean score. The results suggested that users' minimum and desired expectations significantly differed on all three service quality dimensions and all individual services (see Table 6).
Pakistani users expected very high level of service quality. Among user groups, faculty has highest and graduates have lowest expectations with library services. It is somewhat surprising that highest minimum and desired expectations were found with LP dimension and least with AS dimension. The IC dimension was considered moderately important. These results differ from most of studies (Boyd-Byrnes & Rosenthal, 2005; Cook, Heath, Thompson, & Webster, 2003; Hubbard & Walter, 2005; Jaggars, Jaggars, & Duffy, 2009; Kyrillidou & Persson, 2006; Lippincott & Kyrillidou, 2004; Shedlock & Walton, 2004; Wilson, 2004) that have shown IC the most important and LP the least important dimension for users. There are several possible explanations of this result. Pakistani users do not have much experience in using remote access, web base services, and other IC related services so they cannot clarify their actual expectations or may be some users use their departmental libraries and personal collections.
The other possible reason may be that most of Pakistani population is living below poverty line and they might not have enough space for study learning and research at home or office and they might expect that onsite library would be able to offer this. Moreover, the joint family living culture of Pakistani society further emphases the availability of onsite library than collection and access issues. Unlike developed world, users from France and developing countries (Arshad, 2009; Cook, et al., 2008, 2009b; Cook, et al., 2010; Seay, et al., 1996)also have high demand for LP dimension than IC. The users want electronic and print collection resources that match their needs. They also need modern equipment for easy access of needed information. They wish comfortable and good place for individual and group learning. In the case of service problem, they want polite and willing staff to help them.
It is interesting to note that "library staff who instill confidence in users" and "giving users' individual attention" were ranked as the lowest expected items unanimously by all user groups. It seems that users hardly received these services from library staff so they cannot explain their actual experience. We know that users' formulate their expectations from past experience. The other possible reason is that users do not want too much personal attention and confidence from library staff.
Assessments of users' expectation through LibQUAL enable libraries to listen to their users by systematically examining users' individual and group expectations. The LibQUAL instrument is reliable and valid in exploring users' minimum and desired expectation in Indian sub-continent setting such as Pakistan. The study results will be helpful for the libraries to understand users' minimum and desired expectation regarding library services. Additional study results can also be helpful to determine the highest important services. Library administration can use these results for future planning, improvements of service and to justify the resources incurred on service. The results suggested that library users have significant difference between minimum expectations and desired expectations. Therefore, library administration should keep in mind this difference. The results show that users give highest priorities of the service related to LP dimension. Therefore, library administration should more focus on physical space, environment and location of library to enhance user satisfaction.
Limitations and Future Research Directions
The study, however, has few limitations. First, it has common method bias as both students and teachers' expectations are obtained from a single source (questionnaire). So, future research can be conducted by using other sources like focus group and interviews. Secondly, data reported in this study were collected at one point in time, making it impossible to draw inferences of causality. Further longitudinal research is needed after few periods for confirmation. Thirdly, the study focused only on one sector, i.e. university libraries of Pakistan. The results of the study, therefore, may be applied with caution to other types of libraries, i.e. public, special etc. The future research may be conducted in other types of libraries. Finally, the study convenient sampling method for data collection thus sample may not be true representative of population. Therefore, future researches should be conducted through random sampling method.
The study showed that Pakistani users expected very high level of service quality. They expected good physical facilities, adequate collection, easy access and proper study space. The highest expectations were found on LP dimension (physical space, environment and location) and lowest were related to AS dimension (ability, attitude and willingness of staff). Among three user groups, the faculty expected the highest and graduates the lowest level of services. The results also suggested that Pakistani users have two levels of expectations (minimum and desired level) concerning to library service quality. Moreover, the minimum expectations were significantly different from desire expectations.
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