About the 2010 LibQUAL+ Survey

  1. What is the LibQUAL+ survey?
    Service quality has always been the focus of libraries; LibQUAL+ is intended to provide a measure of the value of library service quality across multiple academic and research libraries. The current LibQUAL+ instrument measures library users' perceptions of their libraries' service quality and identifies gaps between minimal, desired and perceived levels of service.

    LibQUAL+ is a suite of services that libraries use to solicit, track, understand, and act upon users' opinions of service quality. These services are offered to the library community by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). The program's centerpiece is a rigorously tested Web based survey bundled with training that helps libraries assess and improve library services, change organizational culture, and market the library. More than 500 institutions have participated in LibQUAL+, including colleges and universities, community colleges, health sciences libraries, law libraries, and public libraries-some through various consortia, others as independent participants. LibQUAL+ has also expanded internationally, with participating institutions in Canada, the UK, and Europe. The growing community of participants and its extensive dataset are rich resources for improving library services.

  2. What does the survey measure?
    The instrument addresses three service quality dimensions that have been found to be valid in previous assessments of library services: Effect of Service, Library as Place, Information Control. Each question has three parts that ask respondents to indicate (1) the minimum service level they will accept, (2) the desired service level they expect, and (3) the perceived level of service currently provided. This design will permit analysis of gaps between expectations, perception, and minimum acceptance level of service.
  3. How will this survey benefit the Western Washington University community?
    As individual libraries receive information about areas needing improvement, this project will allow libraries to compare their service quality with other peer institutions, to develop benchmarks, and to surface best practices across institutions. By using the LibQUAL+ instrument and initiating action based on the results of this survey, the Western Libraries can be more responsive to users' needs and provide services that are better aligned to users' expectations.

    The Western Libraries previously administered LibQUAL+ during Spring Quarter 2006. We are very interested in comparing the past survey results to the current year.

  4. How and when is the Western Libraries survey being conducted?
    During LibQUAL+ Days, February 22 thru March 8, 2010, survey data will be collected on secure servers located in the Texas A&M University Library. Each response will be stored separately as it reaches the server, and survey results will ultimately be reported back to the participating institutions as aggregate mean score data.

    The Western Libraries will receive initial results shortly after the survey closes and will share final results with the campus community.

  5. Are responses confidential?
    Yes. The LibQUAL+ approach to confidentiality is guided by the ethical standards of the American Psychological Association (see section 5). Although some information is captured from respondents, such as network and email address, privacy is protected in two ways. First, only very indirect information is captured which would be difficult to trace back to an individual. Second, everything possible is done to separate personal information from survey responses. Email addresses are not saved with the responses, and once they are saved there is no way to link an individual's responses to their email address -- assuring confidentiality for undergraduates when entering the incentive drawings. After the draw, the email addresses are discarded.
  6. What survey instrument is being used?
    The LibQUAL+ survey evolved from a conceptual model based on the SERVQUAL instrument, a popular tool for assessing service quality in the private sector grounded in the "Gap Theory of Service Quality". It was developed by Leonard L. Berry (Distinguished Professor, Texas A&M University), A. Parasuraman, and Valarie A. Zeithaml. The Texas A&M University Libraries and other libraries used modified SERVQUAL instruments for several years; those applications revealed the need for a newly adapted tool that would serve the particular requirements of libraries. From 1999, ARL, representing the largest research libraries in North America, partnered with Texas A&M University Libraries to develop, test, and refine LibQUAL+. This effort was supported in part by a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE).

    The questionnaire is straightforward and involves no deception or coercion. Potential respondents may elect not to proceed with the survey after reading the guarantees of confidentiality and privacy.

  7. Do all libraries use the same questions?
    The 2010 LibQUAL+ survey will use the same 22 core questions and demographic questions. In addition, each Library may select 5 questions from a list of 122 optional questions. The Western Libraries has selected 5 optional questions.

    We have also chosen to administer a new version of the survey called LibQUAL+ Lite sends a subset of survey questions to users. This set consists of 4 core questions asked all participants along with a randomized subset of those remaining. LibQUAL+ Lite has been rigorously tested assuring that the data gathered will be as authoritative as data gathered from the full survey and will be compatible with data previously gathered using LibQUAL+.

  8. How can I get more information about LibQUAL+?
    For more information, see the LibQUAL+ homepage. To e-mail the national headquarters for LibQUAL+, contact the Association for Research Libraries at


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                  Completing the Survey

                  1. How long will the survey take?
                    This years LibQUAL+ Lite survey should take about 5 minutes to complete. This is less than half the average time taken to complete the full survey in 2006.
                  2. Can I skip questions that don't apply to me?
                    Do not skip any questions in the LibQUAL+ survey! If you do not wish to answer a question or feel a question does not apply to you, select NA (not applicable). Surveys whose core questions are not completely filled out are not counted in the aggregate scores.
                  3. Will there be any special incentives for participating?
                    There will be no compensation per se for completing the survey, though an incentive prize will be offered as thanks to undergraduate participants. By including and email address at the end of the survey undergraduates will become eligible for a drawing to win a $50.00 gift card for the Associated Students Bookstore.
                  4. What Web browsers are supported for the survey?
                    Any browser should work so long as it is not too old. The survey does not rely on erratically supported browser features such as Java or cookies.
                  5. Is the survey exclusively web-based, or can I complete a paper version?
                    Respondents not able to complete an online questionnaire may obtain a paper copy of the survey by sending an email message to or contacting the Reference Desk at 650-3094.
                  6. Is the survey compatible with text-to-speech web browsers?
                    Yes, the survey is compatible with the JAWS screen reader software.
                  7. Why isn't the survey on a Western Washington University web address?
                    The survey is administered through the Association of Research Libraries and Texas A & M University, and the survey and data are housed on secure Texas A & M servers.
                  8. If I deleted the email can I still take the survey?
                    Yes. You can get another copy of the web link. Email or contact the Frank Haulgren at 650-7641.
                  9. What if I cannot open the URL from my email?
                    If you have trouble opening the URL from within your email message, you can copy the URL and paste it into your Web browser. If you still cannot access the survey, you can email or contact Frank Haulgren at 650-7641.
                  10. Why does the survey seem to repeat the same question(s)?
                    The survey examines a variety of dimensions of library services, each represented by a number of questions. Repetition or redundancy in questions allows the survey designers to analyze the validity of each service quality dimension through statistical methods.
                  11. Why are reminders sent to respondents who have already completed the survey?
                    Due to security and confidentiality features, everyone surveyed will receive reminders, even those who have already responded. When submitted, survey responses and identifying information are immediately separated, so we have no way of knowing who has already responded. Reminders, therefore, are distributed to everyone in the survey group.

                    Reminders are also sent because research indicates that the single highest predictor of response rates in web-based surveys is the number of contacts made, including reminders. (See: Cook, Heath, and Thompson, "A meta-analysis of response rates in web- or internet-based surveys", Educational and Psychological Measurement, v. 60, 2000, p.821-836.)

                  12. What discipline category should I choose for my major or area of research?
                    Because this survey is taken by students at many colleges and universities, discipline categories have been standardized for ease of comparison. This will assist with future benchmarking activities. If you are in an interdisciplinary field or in doubt as to what discipline you should select from the drop-down list on the survey, select "Other". Staff not engaged in discipline-based research may choose "Other".


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                                          1. What will be done with the survey results?
                                            Survey data is transmitted directly from the LibQUAL+ server to a database. The data is then analyzed and reports are generated for individual libraries that provide information on how users perceive the quality of their service. Participating institutions will have access to summary results for each institution, allowing for comparisons among peer institutions and all participating academic institutions. This will aid in developing benchmarks and understanding best practices across institutions, and will help the Western Libraries to align services with user expectations.
                                          2. What information is shared with other institutions?
                                            Summary statistics only are shared with other institutions. The survey summary results will be made available to participants via the World Wide Web on a password-protected Web site. Users' comments (from the comments section) will be made available exclusively to the users' home institution.
                                          3. What do the survey results look like?
                                            Survey results will include aggregate summaries, demographics by library, item summaries, dimension summaries, and dimensions measured for survey implementation.
                                          4. Where will results be posted?
                                            Results will be compiled in a report that will be posted on the Western Libraries' LibQUAL+ web site.


                                                  Assessment Program

                                                  LibQUAL Information and Links

                                                  Contact Information

                                                  Frank Haulgren
                                                    Facilities & Assessment
                                                    (360) 650-7641