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LibQUAL 2016: FAQ


In February 2016, the University of Toronto Libraries (UTL) are inviting faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students to participate in the LibQUAL+® survey.  This library service quality survey, developed by the Association of Research Libraries, measures library users’ perceptions of services, resources and spaces. The information gathered is valuable for planning future library services to support research, teaching and learning at the University of Toronto. The survey questions and sampling method vary slightly depending on the campus affiliation of the respondents. This variation is necessary in order to gather feedback that is relevant to the local library.  Results from the 2016 survey will be published when available. Results from previous surveys can be found from the LibQUAL 2016 General Information page.

What is LibQUAL?

LibQUAL is a suite of services offered through the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) that libraries use to solicit, track, understand, and act upon users’ opinions of service quality.  The program’s centerpiece is a rigourously tested, web-based survey that helps libraries assess and improve library services.  More than 1,000 institutions have participated in LibQUAL, including university, college, special, and public libraries – some through various consortia, others  as independent participants.  LibQUAL has also expanded internationally, with participating institutions in Canada, the U.S., Austrialia, UK, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

What are the goals of LibQUAL?

The goals of LibQUAL include:

  • Fostering a culture of excellence in providing library services
  • Helping libraries better understand user perceptions of library service quality
  • Providing libraries with comparable assessment information from peer institutions
  • Identifying best practices in library service

How will LibQUAL benefit library users?

LibQUAL+® gives University of Toronto students, staff, and faculty an opportunity to tell us where library services need improvement so that we are able to align our services better to meet the needs and expectations of the academic community.

What is the basis for the LibQUAL survey instrument?

The LibQUAL+® survey is adapted from an instrument called SERVQUAL, a popular tool for assessing service quality in the private sector.  SERVQUAL 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.  Texas A&M University Libraries and other libraries used 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?

U of T faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students are invited by email to take the survey.  The email invitation includes the URL for accessing the University of Toronto LibQUAL survey.  Once respondents complete the survey, the form is sent to a central database.  The data are analyzed by the Association of Research Libraries’ researchers and presented to U of T Libraries in reports describing users’ desired, perceived, and minimum expectations of service.  U of T Libraries staff also work with the raw data for more in-depth analysis and for internal reporting.

What are the elements of the LibQUAL survey itself?

The LibQUAL survey consists of “22 core questions and a box”.  The 22 items measure user perceptions of:

  • library staff empathy, responsiveness, reliability, and assurance;
  • how well the collections, both electronic and print, support research, teaching, and learning;
  • how well the libraries meet the individual needs of users who study and research on site.

The text box permits 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.

In 2008, the ARL/Texas A&M research and development team tested an alternative form of the conventional LibQUAL+® survey, called “LibQUAL+®Lite”.  The Lite protocol uses item sampling methods to (a) gather data on all 22 LibQUAL+® core items, while (b) only requiring individual users to respond to a subset of the 22 core questions.  In 2016, UTL libraries will be using the LibQUAL+®Lite survey with the undergraduate and graduate student samples.

How long does it take to complete the survey?

It takes about 15 minutes to complete the LibQUAL+® survey, while the Lite version of the survey takes approximately six minutes

What is the format of the survey?

The principal part of the survey consists of “core” questions.  There are three parts to each question:  respondents are asked to indicate the minimum acceptable service level, their desired service level, and the current level of service they perceive to be provided.  The “core” questions are followed by questions relating to user satisfaction and usage patterns.  The survey also provides respondents an opportunity to add any additional comments they may have about library services.  The survey concludes with demographic questions (with usual categories to be checked off about gender, status in the university, and library most used, if applicable).

Can participants skip questions that don’t apply?

Participants should not skip any questions in the survey.  Rather, if a question does not apply,  NA (not applicable) may be selected.  Surveys where core questions are not completely filled out are not counted in the aggregate scores.

How are survey participants chosen?

For the St. George campus survey, random samples of 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff are selected from the library’s patron database.  

UTM and UTSC libraries will be surveying all students, staff and faculty in their  campus communities.

What other libraries are participating in the survey?

University of Toronto Libraries (UTL) previously participated in the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) consortium with about 50 Canadian university, college, and research libraries.  The results from that 2013 implementation permit us to look at the U of T data in comparison with the aggregated data of the Canadian consortium, as well as against the larger group of ARL participating libraries in the U.S. and beyond. In 2016, several large academic libaries in Canada will be running the survey but without the coordination of a consortium.

What precautions are being taken to ensure confidentiality?

The LibQUAL approach to confidentiality is guided by the ethical standards of the American Psychological Association.  Responses do not include email addresses and other information identifying individuals.  The email addresses of participants who choose to include an email address for the draw of prizes are stored separately from responses.  The addresses are disposed of once the draw has been held.  In addition, responses will only be used in the aggregate survey analyses and will be treated with confidentiality.

What about data security?

The survey data are stored on a secure Association of Research Libraries server.  The collected data are archived and only the ARL LibQUAL research team has access to the complete data set.  After the survey period ends, identifying information and comments will be removed and the anonymized data set will be made available to researchers through a repository.

Will participants be able to complete a print copy of the survey rather than completing it online?

Participants are asked to complete the online survey as this provides privacy and ensures confidentiality.  However, a print copy is available for submission of responses, if requested. The survey is compatible with the JAWS screen reader software.

Who is the 2016 Principal Investigator (PI) for University of Toronto Libraries?

Klara Maidenberg is the PI for the St. George campus survey and can be reached at

Maeghan Valant is the PI for the Mississauga campus, and can be reached at

Matthew Gertler is the PI for the Scarborough campus, and can be reached at

Will the results of the surveys be made available?

Results from all three surveys will be posted on the web once the analyses are complete. The results will be announced on the LibQUAL 2016 General Information page.

Is there more information on the LibQUAL survey?

More information is available on the LibQUAL homepage.