ILS-565 Library management
©2004-2007 Amy Ranger
Management styles
Book review
Service exercise
Main index

This paper on library service was written by Amy Proni (now Amy Ranger) for the course ILS-565, Library management, taught by Dr. J. M. Kusack, Southern Connecticut State University, Spring, 2004.

Assignment: Research how a library can improve the quality of service offered to its community. Consider staffing, training, evaluation, incentives, and other issues. In general, reading six to ten articles on TQM or the service issues from library publications or the general management literature should be sufficient. Then summarize ten to twenty recommendations or techniques for assuring quality service. Note: this is not an exercise about a particular service, but how to improve the quality of service and the service orientation of the staff.

Service exercise
Total Quality Management for libraries

A revolution in technology has led to the emergence of the virtual university, which is supported in part by the virtual library. This change has forced the library to become more of an information broker, acquiring and redistributing the commodities known as scholarly work and knowledge. (Lincoln, 2002).  Previously the academic library was a hallowed hall of learning, the very center of academic life. Today it must fight for every penny that can be wrenched from the talons of university administrators, who seem to take the view that the library is “so yesterday,” in contemporary terms. This paper will address possible solutions that can be employed to improve the quality of service offered to an academic community. Four aspects of service are considered: place, service, accessibility, and personal control.

The Library as Place. The library offers both a refuge and a powerful symbol to members of the academic community. Transactions conducted within its walls are not just for goods or services, but consist of social, cultural, and intellectual performances. Provide spaces for activities other than reading: discussions, crafts, theatre, quiet reflection and relaxation. (Ranseen, 2002). Offer art exhibits and bulletin boards or information kiosks to educate, entertain, and inform. Create leisure reading collections near comfortable furniture. (Ferguson, 1998).

Monitor how groups interact with the physical space so that diverse learning styles may be accommodated. Students collaborating – whether they are in small groups or large – require appropriately sized study areas. Some students may prefer a conference room, with a large table and several chairs; while others might work better in a more open space, where they can walk around, make notes on a chalkboard (or use presentation software on their wireless laptop computers) and physically interact with the space. A coffee bar or snack stand makes sense for distance learners or the late-night crowd, and would probably be greatly appreciated by staff as well. Maintain hours of operation appropriate to the community (weekends, evenings), and remember that the gate count is not the only indication of how well the library is used — consider also how long people stay and how many resources must be re-shelved at the end of the day. Provide comment cards and drop boxes at several visible service points in the library, check the boxes regularly and respond to the comments.

return to top

Affect of Service. Recruit, develop, and retain productive and qualified employees. The library staff must be responsive to the needs of patrons; be empathetic, dependable, reliable, and knowledgeable. (Jenkins, 2002). Promote excellence from all potential service points: circulation, reference, inter-library loan, government documents, special collections, technical service, with regard to speed, courtesy, and accuracy. (Self, 2004). Improve service to patrons by creating a base of shared knowledge on the library intranet. (Block, 1999). This can be something as simple as teaching the staff to use a shared calendar, such as GroupWise; or asking different departments and individuals to create informative documents that could help assist others in their absence. Asking the humanities librarian to note his favorite reference sources for 19th century American literature, or the visual resources librarian to share her preferred on-line art exhibit links would enable less knowledgeable staff on duty to be credible and useful.

Access to information. Offer the broadest, deepest, and most affordable collection of scholarly materials, in a variety of formats. Process new materials as quickly as possible, and train the stacks staff to correctly identify and shelve resources. Use appropriate security to protect and maintain the collection, physically as well as electronically. Access to the library catalog for individuals off-campus is a necessity, as is a secure server to host the database and staff time to maintain it. Employ proxy server(s) to provide fast and secure access to electronic resources. Provide research material that is relevant and convenient through the use of full-text on-line databases – if students cannot find the right data easily and quickly, they will likely turn to a popular search engine to retrieve less-than-scholarly information. (Block, 2000). Support resource sharing with a well-trained interlibrary loan department staff that has the ability to respond to user’s requests in an accurate and timely fashion.

return to top

Personal control. Staff must be familiar with the library collections and able to give concise directions to users who wish to venture off alone. Others, who may not yet be sophisticated library users, will prefer the assistance of a librarian. Either way, a supportive library staff will assist all users (experienced or novice, on premises or virtual) in locating, evaluating, and using information effectively. A web site with a clean layout, easily understood terms and simple links offers an easy entrance into the virtual library for autonomous users. Links to class guides, such as “Library resources for English 105,” can assist a reluctant library user — even if it is the evening before a paper is due. For those independent information-seekers who visit the library in person, provide distinctive signage, maps, and color-coded sections. Neophyte users may enjoy a tour of the collections and a bibliographic instruction session, or their exploration may be interest-focused and self-guided. (Lincoln, 2002). A variety of entry points into the labyrinth of an academic library will serve diverse needs.

There is no single way to assure quality service in an academic library. The manager must rely on observations of front-line staff and analysis of survey instruments such as LibQual, as well as regularly “walking the floor” and interacting with the community. She must understand the community’s needs and the abilities of her staff, then make an effort to ask, listen, and be prepared to act on their behalf.

return to top

Lincoln, Yvonna S. (2002). Insights into library services and users from qualitative research. Library & Information Science Research, v. 24, no. 1, 3–16.

Ranseen, Emily. (2002). The library as place : changing perspective. Library Administration & Management, v. 16, no. 4, 203–207.

Ferguson, Anthony W. (1998). Back talk: customer satisfaction is job one. Against the grain, April, 94.

Jenkins, Paul. ([2002?]). Chart: LibQUAL survey results, all user groups. Retrieved February 19, 2004 from the World Wide Web:

Self, Jim. ([2004?]). Balanced scorecard 2003-04: metrics, user perspective. Retrieved February 19, 2004 from the World Wide Web:

Block, Marylaine. (1999). Improving service by sharing knowledge. Retrieved February 20, 2004 from the World Wide Web:

Block, Marylaine. (2000). The fate of non-digitized scholarly resources. Retrieved February 21, 2004 from the World Wide Web:

return to top

Last updated 2007-06-10. ALR. Contact me.