Toward Improving Library and Information Services Delivery in Nigeria through Total Quality Management
Opara, Umunna N., African Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science
Libraries are essentially non-profit social service institutions. However, among the different social service institutions in Nigeria, libraries appear to be the least understood by the people for whom they are established and, perhaps, the least provided for in terms of resources. Although governments and the parent or funding bodies of libraries usually acknowledge the importance of libraries in educational, cultural and social development of the country, this is often not backed up with commensurate investment in libraries. Moreover, during tough economic conditions like what Nigeria is experiencing under the current global economic difficulties, library and information services often are the first to experience cutback in allocated resources. Accordingly, each library must be able to continually justify its annual demand for resources in the context of other competing community or organisational demand for the same resources.
Libraries in Nigeria need to provide and sustain high quality services to maintain and improve their relevance to their publics, including communities, supervisory and funding institutions, and other stakeholders. A library needs to satisfy its users in order to engender increased patronage, promote improved public perceptions of its community value, and convert its clientele from episodic to habitual library users. The larger the number of patrons using the library, the higher is its prestige or ranking (Opara, 2006). High quality services are also needed to prove to the funding bodies that the library is worth the investment of scarce public fund. Derfert-Wolf, Gorski and Marcinek (2005) have argued that high quality library performance is crucial for the survival of research libraries. They contended that it is the quality of library services that determines the perception of the library within its parent institution and the society. Ward et al. (1995) opine that libraries are being asked to demonstrate their worth through quality services, to justify their expenditure, and to adopt new practices that involve substantially improved and extended services to users. Quality library facilities and systems are also essential in Nigerian academic libraries because the National Universities Commission (NUC), the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) assess the quality of such facilities and library services as part of the requirements for accreditation of academic programmes in universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in Nigeria.
Furthermore, libraries no longer enjoy monopoly of information provision in today's digital environment. The choices available to today's information seeker are so many and varied that no library can afford to be ineffective. The librarian, therefore, must think on his feet, always looking for better ways of providing services so that the library can be reckoned with. This service orientation will help sustain the confidence of the library's clientele. As Kurtus (2004) has noted, a company that seeks to satisfy the customer by providing him value for what he buys and the quality he expects will get more repeat business, referral business, and reduced complaints and service expenses. Therefore, libraries are expected to develop systems, philosophies, and strategies for managing and providing quality services. This implies a management approach that focuses on service quality.
It is against this background that this paper discusses how the principles and methods of total quality management (TQM) could be used to deliver and sustain quality services in Nigerian libraries.
Total Quality Management
Total Quality Management (TQM) is a management philosophy which focuses on human and work processes with the primary goals of ensuring customer satisfaction and continuously improving organisational performance (Obanya, 2003). It is customer-centric, and as Brokman (1993) has noted, it focuses relentlessly on the needs of the customer, both internal and external. …