Magazine article Journal of Services Research

Perceptions of Service Quality in an Academic Library: A Case Study

Magazine article Journal of Services Research

Perceptions of Service Quality in an Academic Library: A Case Study

Article excerpt


A competition for limited resources; rising expectations of users; increasing complexity of information provision from a variety of new providers; ever increasing cost of information carriers have contributed to the operational transparency and accountability of libraries. The rapid development of information technology, tremendous speed of 'socio-technical development, changed needs of users have all added to the expectations from a service organization. A library needs to fulfill user expectations. The application of quality management in libraries is to establish a culture of continuous improvement of quality of products and services. Its implementation in libraries improves the image of the library staff and helps in public relations and marketing. (Rajan and Ravi, 2001).

Traditionally, the quality of an academic library has been described in terms of its collection and measured by the size of the library holdings and different measures of its use. This traditional method no longer fulfills the goals for successfully meeting the user's demands for information. The time has now come to evaluate the quality and significance of library service through SERVQUAL. The SERVQUAL has evolved as a new instrument to measure the service quality (Thapisa and Gamini, 1999).

Quality is the basic philosophy and requirement of library profession and all libraries strive to deliver the highest quality of service. A quality service is one that fully meets expectations and requirements of the users. If a library provides right information to right user at right time and in required form, then it is maintaining quality. Quality library services mean satisfying the query of each and every user pin pointedly, exhaustively, and expeditiously (Sharma, 2001).


The concept of service quality in the context of a library can be defined as the difference between users expectations and perceptions of service performance. Quality becomes a big issue when libraries try to expand their scope and improve their service. Quality can be defined as to how good a service is, and not necessarily how large or extensive (Orr, 1973). In the library, quality may be recognized by the customers in terms of prompt delivery or lack of error in services. Quality can also be seen as relating to the fitness of a service or product to its intended purpose or use, subject to the expectations of the customer or user. Quality, therefore, must be in conformity with the customer's requirements or needs. This means that the quality of a service can be a definition of the customer's perception of what is good or bad, acceptable or not acceptable service (Barnad, 1993). Therefore, quality is an ongoing process where the user is a key determinant. Quality assurance is a continuous process of examination and re-examination of needs of the user, providing the means by which expectation can be met or satisfied. So, quality service is helping a user to define his/her needs, clarifying user benefits, building confidence and monitoring and assessing the organization and the impact of its services (Thapisa and Gamini, 1999).

Within the library literature, the concept of quality has not yet been well developed, depending on the context in which a library organization seeks to assess its service quality. Recently, some librarians are shifting their perspective of library services to represent a user driven view. The assessment of how well a library succeeds depends on the user as judge of quality. The primary goal of any library therefore should be to maximize user satisfaction and to exceed expectations. Parasuraman, Berry and Zeithaml's (1998) customer based approach to conceptualize and measure service quality suggests intriguing alternative to view and measure the quality of library services. They identified five dimensions with which consumers judge services based on the work of Fitzsimmons, and Fitzsimmons (2000). …

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