Magazine article Special Libraries

Enhancing Library Services: An Exploration in Meeting Customer Needs through Total Quality Management

Magazine article Special Libraries

Enhancing Library Services: An Exploration in Meeting Customer Needs through Total Quality Management

Article excerpt

Responsive service to users has been identified as a primary goal of professional libraries.(1) Therefore, it is important for libraries to incorporate a mechanism to evaluate achievement of this goal. Total Quality Management (TQM) is a systematic process which focuses on understanding customer needs and improving customer service and satisfaction. In addition, the emphasis of TQM is on continuous improvement rather than on meeting specific standards.(2) Given libraries' commitment to customer satisfaction, TQM could serve as a practical and useful strategy for the ongoing evaluation and improvement of library services.

The Devereux Foundation, a health care organization committed to providing high quality human services to children, adults and families with special needs, operates a Professional Library through its Institute of Clinical Training and Research (ICTR). The mission of the Professional Library is to assist staff in making informed decisions necessary to provide state-of-the-art services to Devereux clients. Recognizing the importance of efficiency and quality, the Director of ICTR created a Total Quality Management committee, comprised of staff members from all positions within the division, to assess consumer satisfaction with the library and make recommendations for improving library services to better meet customer needs.

The Professional Library, located in the mid-Atlantic region of the United Stales, serves over 500 Devereux staff at the Foundation's central administration offices and 22 residential treatment centers located in 13 states nationwide and Washington, DC. Due to the large geographic region served by the library, personnel face unique challenges in meeting customer needs, as many customers are limited to telephone and mail contact.


The first step in the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) effort was the development of a survey to assess customer satisfaction with existing services and identify unmet customer needs. The committee developed the survey following a review of the related literature and an examination of several customer satisfaction surveys from a wide variety of organizations. A draft survey was piloted within ICTR by asking 18 staff members to complete the survey and comment regarding its content and structure. Based on the staff's responses and suggestions, the final version of the survey was completed. Topics on the survey included awareness and usage of current library services and materials, frequency of use, and satisfaction with the completeness, quality, and timeliness of services provided.

Both purposeful and random sampling techniques were utilized to distribute the survey to the most likely users of the Professional Library. Surveys were mailed to members of the president's council and executive directors, and clinical directors, located in centers in 13 states. Clinical directors were also asked to distribute copies of the survey to five members of their clinical staff. A total of 156 surveys were mailed, along with a cover letter explaining the purpose of the survey and instructions for its completion and return. The survey included 16 multiple choice items and 2 items soliciting comments and suggestions; respondents were also given the option of including their name and phone number on the survey if they were willing to discuss their responses over the telephone or if they wanted information about the services and materials provided by the Professional Library. Follow up telephone calls were made to those respondents who identified themselves and expressed dissatisfaction with the library services or materials.


Of the 156 surveys distributed, 84 (54%) were returned. Respondents were predominantly clinical staff (59%) and from the mid-Atlantic region (45%). Fifty-five percent of the respondents had never used or were unaware that the library was available for their use. The remainder of the respondents had used the library, on average, between one and four times during the past year. …

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