Date of this Version
Library Philosophy and Practice 2012
There are at least 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 (Parasuraman as cited in Cook, Heath, Thompson, & Thompson, 2001).The French writer François de la Rochefoucauld said that "Il est plus nécessaire d'étudier les hommes que les livres" (It is more important to study people than books).The LibQUAL qualitative comments provide very rich information on user's perception about library service quality. It gives unique opportunity for participating libraries to compare the users' perception through mix methods. Thompson, Kyrillidou, and Cook (2007) noted that about 40% of the LibQUAL respondents provide open-ended comments. These comments often indicate weak and strong areas of library service quality and library administration can use these comments and suggestions for improvement of their services.
Begay, Lee, Marti,n & Ray (2004) emphasized the use of open-ended comments. These comments provide additional rich source of information for future planning to meet the needs of user community. The open-ended comments are also helpful for refinement of instrument and increase in response rate. With these comments users can provide their problem and concerns for all relevant issues. Different qualitative data analysis software such as Atlas.ti, NU*DIST, Nvivo and Excel are available to analyse the open ended comment. The University of Idaho used Atlas.ti software (Jankowska, Hertel, & Young, 2006) and University of Arizona used NU*DIST software to code comments (Begay, et al., 2004). The LibQUAL website publication section (http://www.libqual.org/publications) enlisted some articles, how participating libraries analyzed their user s'comments.
The University of Arizona (Begay, et al., 2004) analyzed the 303 open ended comments provided by LibQUAL 2002 Survey participants. The close examination of comments resulted in three broad categories: access (n=290), services (n=161) and environment (n=156). The access comes up as major and environment as a least concern to library users. The comments related to access included: electronic access, suggestions for access, access to journals, access to print collection and organization of access. Most of comments were from graduates and undergraduate students and only a few were from faculty.
The second largest category of comments were related to services (n=161).The most of comments were related to staff services, competency for services and interlibrary loan services. The lowest numbers of comments were about environment category (156). The most of environment related comments were about noise, hours and study rooms. The 77% of comments were positive (related to staff competency) and 17% of the comments were negative. The negative comments were mostly about part-time student staff. Majority of comments were provided by graduate students. There were correlation between users' perception of staff competencies and satisfaction with services they received at their university library. A relationship was also noted between users' expectations and their perceptions of service quality. The University of Arizona library used these open ended comments to gauge the users' information need and planed new services, strategies to fulfill these needs.
The analysis of users comments at Vanderbilt Library (Wilson, 2004) revealed that out of 934 surveys completed, 380 respondents provided 650 discrete observations: 428 comments were critical and 232 were positive. Of the 428 negative comments, 129 related to the library building and 162 to Information Control (IC). Out of 232 positive comments, 97 were related to Affect of Service (AS) area. This qualitative data supported previous concerns depicted through quantitative studies (mostly in North America) that users considered information control as a critical area.
The W.E.B. Du Bois library of University of Massachusetts Amherst (Rodriquez, 2007) analyzed the open ended comments of 2007 LibQUAL survey through Nvivo software. Comments were made by graduate and undergraduate students, library staff and faculty. Most of the comments were related to staff and services, the catalog and learning commons. The analysis of 600 comments revealed that all user groups admired the library staff and services and learning commons. The major criticism was about the online catalog. The most frequent suggestions were: less noise, expand wireless internet connections, need more photocopiers and catalog terminals, more space for quiet and group learning, more electronic and print collection, easy process for acquisition and information literacy.
The University of Southern California (2007) analyzed 249 open ended comments provided by LibQUAL (2007) survey participants. Out of 249 comments nearly half (n=115) of comments were related to IC, 91 from Library as Place (LP), 40 comments were from AS and only 13 comments were from general satisfaction dimension. There were 41 negative comments (mostly related to IC dimension), 28 positive and 112 suggestions comments. The most frequent comments on AS dimension were: favorable services (n=16), poor or inconsistent services (n=10) and personal assistance is important (n=2).The top concern issues for IC dimension were: expand collection (n=53),electronic access concern (n=13),favorable electronic resources (n=12) and missing material (n=8).The most important concerns on library as place were: need more space (n=28),need equipment (n=18), need longer library hours (n=11) and too noisy (n=10).The study did not informed about correlations and differences among various categories of comments.
Rehman,Muhmood, Arif & Rafiq (2009) in their survey of users satisfaction of central library of University of Punjab (UOP) provided the space for users suggestions. In response to open ended question, 238 users provided the suggestions for the improvement of UOP Library. The most frequent suggestions were: increase in collection (n=53), free and speedy internet facility should be provided (n=42), complaints about different library rules (n=35), improvement in physical facilities (n=36), complained about the attitude of library staff (n=25), Organization of library material especially serial collection (n=8) and library should arrange information literacy programs (n=6).
Arshad (2009) investigated significant user expectations (only student user group) of departmental libraries of UOP(University of Punjab) Lahore, Pakistan through one open ended question. The analysis of 123 open ended comments discovered that users want better physical facilities (air-conditioned, neat and clean libraries, more study space), more collection (books, journal), modern equipment, Online Public Access Catalog. In case of service problems they expected courteous and cooperative library staff. They also wanted convenient library working hours. The author did not explore users' perception about actual service delivery, correlation and difference between various types of comments.
Rehman, Shafiq & Mahmood (2011) in their study invited users suggestions through open ended question. Out of 507 respondents, 274 (54%) provided their suggestions for the improvement of reference and other library services. The frequent suggestions were:
Provision of more facilities and reference services (n=99), acquisition of new and updated reference material for all subjects (n= 84), competency of reference staff and provision of good ICT facilities. However these suggestions were limited to reference services and user satisfaction with those services.
Shafique, Rehman & Mahmood (2011) in another study analyzed the 275 additional comments and suggestions (35.4%) provided by survey respondents. The frequent suggestions and comments were: more library facilities and services (n= 105); more collection (n= 89); competent and courteous library staff (n= 61); need modern equipment (n= 58); library environment should be conducive for research and study (n= 33); library material should be processed and arranged properly (n= 26); more print/e-journals should be subscribed by the library (n= 23); Books' transaction (issue and return) should be according to the rules (n= 16); OPAC should be provided (n= 13); more trained staff should be appointed (n= 10); library timings should be increased (n= 10); user education programs should be started (n= 8).
Libraries are investing a large amount of budget on resources and services to improve efficiency. There is high demand for fundraising on the part of libraries to yield library service quality and user satisfaction services. Library service quality helps to justify resources and improve services. Library service quality is a very hot topic in developed countries especially in North America. Many service quality tools like SERVQUAL, LibQUAL and SERVPREF were developed there. Library service quality based on user's perceptions and expectations seems to have been largely ignored by library administration in developing countries. In Pakistan service quality and user satisfaction are unfamiliar topic. Assessment of library service quality and conducting user satisfaction surveys is not a regular practice in Pakistan. Some user studies, satisfaction survey and service evaluation studies of individual libraries regarding their use touched this topic. At present only a very few libraries collect user input regarding library service quality through informal and unsolicited channels as suggestion boxes, suggestion register and anecdotal comments from service desks. These kinds of simple gate count, size of library collection, circulation statistics, are not substitute for service quality measures. The belief that numbers of volumes, physical facilities and amount of library investment are indicator of higher quality services no more exists in today high-tech and competitive environment.
The current study is an attempt to address this gap by examining the open ended comments. As best of knowledge to this author, current study is first comprehensive effort in South Asia to investigate the users' perception through LibQUAL open ended comments .In this article we will analyze 1263 open ended comments, provided by 786 survey participants. The purpose of this analysis is to determine what problem users encounter, what are their concerns and suggestions for these problems.