Frequently Asked Questions About LibQUAL+™

What is LibQUAL+™

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. As of spring 2003, more than 400 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.

What are the goals of LibQUAL+™?

The goals of LibQUAL+™ are to:

Why was LibQUAL+™ started?

There is increasing pressure for libraries to move towards outcome-based assessment, instead of relying merely on input, output, or resource metrics. This pressure comes from funding authorities as well as users themselves. Outcome measures may show how well an organization serves its users; they demonstrate an institution's efficiency and effectiveness. LibQUAL+™ is one of several outcome-based assessment efforts begun under the ARL New Measures Initiative. The LibQUAL+™ survey evolved from a conceptual model based on the SERVQUAL instrument, a popular tool for assessing service quality in the private sector. 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. 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).

How will LibQUAL+™ benefit library users?

LibQUAL+™ gives your library users a chance to tell you where your services need improvement so you can respond to and better manage their expectations. You can develop services that better meet your users' expectations by comparing your library's data with that of peer institutions and examining the practices of those libraries that are evaluated highly by their users.

What is the basis for the LibQUAL+™ survey instrument?

The LibQUAL+™ survey instrument is adapted from an instrument called SERVQUAL, which is grounded in the "Gap Theory of Service Quality" and was developed by the marketing research team of A. Parasuraman, V.A. Zeithaml, and L.L. Berry. The Texas A&M University Libraries and other libraries have been using modified SERVQUAL instruments for several years. These applications showed the need for a newly adapted SERVQUAL protocol that serves the needs of libraries; thus LibQUAL+™ was born. The original SERVQUAL instrument was regrounded based on a series of interviews with library users.

How is LibQUAL+™ conducted?

Conducting the LibQUAL+™ survey requires little technical expertise on your part. You invite your users to take the survey, distributing the URL for your library's Web form via e- mail. Respondents complete the survey form and their answers are sent to a central database. The data are analyzed and presented to you in reports describing your users' desired, perceived, and minimum expectations of service.

What is the difference between the LibQUAL+™ survey and a customer satisfaction survey?

Customer service can be defined as comprising all programs, activities, facilities, etc. of an organization, which have a bearing on customers' experiences during and as a result of their interactions with the organization. Customer service focuses on the customers' personal and emotional reaction to service. Service quality is the customers' assessment of how good/bad, or pleasant/unpleasant their experiences are. "Service quality" is the customers' subjective evaluation of "customer service." The LibQUAL+™ instrument Service quality "measurements" are snapshot or discrete summaries of customers' evaluation of their experiences.

What are the elements of the LibQUAL+™ survey itself?

Following years of revision involving data collection from more than 200,000 library users, LibQUAL+™ has evolved into a protocol consisting of "22 items and a box." The 22 items measure user perceptions of Service Affect, Information Control, and Library as Place. The box secures open-ended comments from users regarding their concerns and suggestions. These comments are an integral part of LibQUAL+™; historically, almost 50 percent of respondents provide comments using the box.

What are the benefits of participating in LibQUAL+™ as part of a consortial group?

Consortium participation in LibQUAL+™ is viewed as a mutually beneficial arrangement through which the consortium obtains valuable service quality information and comparisons across their membership, while ARL benefits from the large number of participants. Consortium arrangements also stress the importance of securing the continuing commitment and participation of consortium members in the LibQUAL+™ program, in order to help the LibQUAL+™ project grow and develop. Through their participation, consortia also receive several special benefits: the opportunity to add five group questions to the survey; and a consortium results notebook, distributed to all consortium participants, including aggregate results for the group

How can I get more information about LibQUAL+™?

For more information, see the LibQUAL+™ homepage at, or e-mail a request to

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LibQUAL+™ is a registered trademark of the Association of Research Libraries.

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