LibQUAL+ 2008

You spoke; we listened: responding to the LibQUAL+ survey results

In the fall of 2008, the library sought feedback from the OHSU community through the LibQUAL+ survey (www.libqual.org), an instrument developed by the Association for Research Libraries to measure service quality in libraries. This article will outline the changes we have made and are planning to make in response to the survey, along with a summary of key results. For a more in-depth analysis of results, see:

Our response to the results

We learned from LibQUAL+ that our information resources--and the tools we provide to access them--are what matter most to our users.  That result didn't surprise us, but the survey did give us some hard data to support existing observations and will help us direct our efforts to areas that will most benefit our users.  We are responding to the survey results in the following ways: 

Improvements to the web site, off-campus access, and other access tools

  • We launched a redesigned web site in July 2009, making it more consistent with the OHSU site so that users will be able to navigate the site more easily.
  • We are trying to improve the way we provide access to electronic resources from off-campus. Last summer we streamlined procedures for maintaining accounts and allowed users to retrieve lost barcodes automatically via a link on our web site. We have also begun investigating ways to let users authenticate with their OHSU network credentials, though a workable solution may not be available for some time.
  • Currently we are evaluating access to our electronic collections via the Find@OHSU tool. We are testing a sample of citations users tried to retrieve, recording whether or not we can access each article successfully and any barriers to access. We hope to have the results of this study analyzed sometime this spring, after which we will begin addressing the most common problems.

Improvements to collections

While tight budgets limit what we can purchase, we were able to add several important resources to our collection last fiscal year:  

  • 16 new journal subscriptions 
  • Complete backfiles for JAMA and all the Archives journals published by the American Medical Association 
  • 6 new collections of electronic books containing a total of 200 new titles in a range of disciplines, with an emphasis on basic science, dentistry, and nursing
  • 8 new databases: Access Emergency Medicine, Access Pharmacy, Access Surgery, Dynamed, JAMAEvidence, Nursing Reference Center, Scopus, and Springer Protocols

Improvements to equipment

We are working with ITG on ways to improve computer access in the library, providing better performance at a lower cost. In the meantime, we are replacing outdated machines and have replaced our ancient CRT monitors with LCD flat panel monitors.

Improvements to library space

Early in 2009, we studied which spaces are most used in the library and how they are used. As funds permit, we will use this information to update and expand both individual and group study spaces. We are also seeking funding to create a 24-hour study area in the library.

About LibQUAL+

LibQUAL+ groups questions and results into three major areas:

  • Affect of Service – how users feel about the service they receive from library staff
  • Information Control – how adequate our collections are and how easy they are to us
  • Library as Place – our physical facility

Questions in these areas ask users to rank various aspects of library service on a scale of 1-9 as follows:

  • Their minimum acceptable level of service
  • Their desired level of service
  • The level of service the library actually provides

The survey also includes some general questions about demographics, user satisfaction, and frequency of use. 


We sent survey invitations to a random sample of 3814 OHSU employees and students and received 838 completed surveys, a response rate of 22%.  Respondents identified themselves as follows:

  • Undergraduate students, 93 (12.74%)
  • Graduate students, 158 (21.64%)
  • Faculty, 142 (19.45%)
  • Library staff, 7 (.96%)
  • Staff, 330 (45.21%)

Our overall average rating was 7.28 on a scale of 1-9. 

What is most important to our users

Overall access to library resources (a/k/a Information Control) was most important to all types of users, followed by Affect of Service, then Library as Place. Here are the specific items most important to our users:
  • Print and/or electronic journal collections I require for my work
  • The electronic information resources I need
  • Easy-to-use tools that allow me to find things on my own
  • Making information easily accessible for independent use

These results illustrate the shift from in-person use of physical books and journals to remote use of electronic resources.  Responses to one of the demographic questions reinforces that point: 45% of respondents used resources in the library at least monthly, while 77% used resources via the library web site at least monthly.  It is worth noting, however, that students cared more about the physical library than any other group, which may reflect their need for study space and lack of on-campus offices.

How users rated the library

The following two tables list the areas in which we scored highest and lowest.

Highest actual scores

Lowest actual scores

  • Employees who are consistently courteous
  • Readiness to respond to users' questions
  • Employees who have the knowledge to answer user questions
  • Employees who deal with users in a caring fashion
  • Willingness to help users
  • Community space for group learning and group study
  • Library space that inspires study and learning

Highest scores relative to user expectations

Lowest scores relative to user expectations

  • Community space for group learning and group study (our lowest actual score, but since user expectations were also low, we met their expectations)
  • Giving users individual attention
  • Employees who deal with users in a caring fashion
  • Print and/or electronic collections I require for my work
  • A library Web site enabling me to locate information on my own
  • Easy-to-use tools that allow me to find things on my own
  • Making electronic resources accessible from my home or office
  • The electronic information resources I need
  • Modern equipment that lets me easily access needed information

To sum up these results:

  • Respondents were not thrilled with our facilities, but since physical library facilities are not a high priority for most of them, we meet or exceed their expectations in this area.
  • Users want easy access to the materials they need from wherever they are--and we aren't living up to their expectations in those areas.
  • Respondents like the service they receive from our staff.

Highlights from the comments

In addition to all the ranking questions, the LibQUAL+ survey includes a comment box at the end. The most common positive comments we received were either general praise or praise for our employees. The most common negative comments criticized our journal collection or our physical facilities. One comment seems to summarize much of our findings: "I don't need personal service so much as access to more resources."