Ask A Librarian

Tell the Libraries What You Think

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
April 12th, 2009

Consider it a virtual suggestion box for the WVU Libraries. In a few days, about 4,000 randomly selected students and faculty will receive an email requesting they participate in LibQUAL, an online survey taking place this month.

The WVU Libraries want input from students, faculty, and staff on the services and resources they currently provide and what offerings they should add. The survey, consisting of 45 multiple-choice questions and has room for comments, enables library users to share their frank opinions about all aspects of the Libraries.

The Libraries appreciate your opinion and understand that your time is valuable. All participants will be entered in a drawing for an iPod Nano; three winners will be drawn.

If you have been selected to participate in the survey, you will receive an email in your MIX or Groupwise account by April 13. You will be able to complete the survey from April 13-24.

“If you receive an invitation to participate in LibQual, please complete the survey,” WVU Libraries Dean Frances O’Brien said. “Your responses and comments will help us to better understand your needs and to provide you with the best services and resources.”

Responses from previous surveys led to the Libraries making several changes, including extending library hours to 2 a.m. and adding Eliza’s coffee shop to the Downtown Campus Library.

Frequently asked questions

What is LibQual?
LibQual is a nationwide research project undertaken to define and measure library service quality across institutions and to create useful quality-assessment tools to aid each participating library in planning for the future. The LibQual project uses an instrument designed to measure how library users perceive the quality of service they receive. This tool identifies gaps between the perceived, desired and minimally acceptable levels of library service in a number of categories. The LibQual project is sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

Why are the survey questions so redundant? They keep asking the same question over and over. Who designed this survey?
This is the most asked WVU LibQual question. 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.
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. In 1999, ARL, representing the largest research libraries in North America, partnered with Texas A&M University Libraries to develop, test, and refine LibQUAL.

Can I skip questions?
If you do not wish to answer a question, select NA (not applicable). You must give a response to each question; either answer the question or mark NA.

My major or my area of research is not listed on the survey. What do I pick?
Because this is a nationwide multi-institution survey, discipline categories have been standardized for ease of comparison. They do not always match WVU discipline names. Make your best choice, and if you are still in doubt as to what discipline you should select from the drop-down list on the survey, select “Other.”

Why was LibQual developed?
In conjunction with other research libraries, we want to assess our performance based on our users’ perceptions of the quality of service we deliver instead of simple metrics such as user counts, number of books circulated, number of computer workstations provided and collection size.

How many libraries are involved in LibQual?
More than 500 libraries nationwide have participated in LibQual. This is the fourth time the WVU Libraries have participated. Previous LibQual surveys were done at WVU in 2003, 2005, and 2007.

How will I benefit from completing the survey?
Your input will be used to focus our attention on specific service areas that are most in need of improvement. Your honest opinions will guide us in our ongoing efforts to improve our service to everyone. Eliza’s coffee shop in the Downtown Campus Library is one example of a service provided in response to LibQual comments.

How did you come to choose me?
We randomly selected a number of e-mail addresses of WVU faculty and students from MIX and Groupwise. We then sent e-mail messages to that group encouraging each recipient to complete the survey on the Web.

What kinds of questions are you asking?
There are three types of questions in the survey: General statements asking you to rate a series of library services by clicking radio buttons to indicate; an open-ended question (text box) where you can write in specific comments or complaints in your own words (In past surveys, almost half of the respondents wrote comments. These are very helpful to the Libraries.); and questions about age, sex, discipline and position at the University (This will enable us to analyze the results by category and to make sure that the replies are representative of the university population as a whole).

How long will this survey take?
The survey should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.

How many messages will a person receive?
Participants will receive a total of three e-mail messages: A general message announcing the survey and explaining its purpose and two brief reminder messages asking participants to complete the survey if they have not already done so.

If I reply to the survey, will I still receive reminder messages?
Sorry, but yes you will. Since replies to the survey are anonymous, we have no way of knowing who has completed the survey and who has not, so we are sending these brief reminders to everyone.

Are the survey responses confidential?
Yes, absolutely. We are taking every measure possible to protect the privacy of participants. Survey data are stored on a secure server, which is located behind a secure firewall. 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 survey responses to their email address — assuring confidentiality when entering the incentive drawing. After the drawing for the iPods, which is conducted by ARL, email addresses are discarded. The WVU Libraries received approval from the IRB (Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects) for the LibQual survey.

Will the survey store “cookies” on my computer?
Cookies were once used with the LibQual survey (2002 survey and earlier), but are no longer used. For the current survey, the behind-the-scenes programming has been written for maximum efficiency, stability, and compatibility, and the survey does not rely on features such as JavaScript or cookies.

What if I cannot open the survey link URL from my email message?
If you cannot open the URL from within your email message by clicking, try copying the URL text and pasting it into your Web browser’s address box.

What if my browser has problems opening the survey?
You may be using a browser that is too old for the survey to function properly. You may have better luck doing the survey from a library computer.

What if I receive an error message stating that a variable is undefined?
This is a timeout problem. If the survey is left incomplete for more than an hour, it will timeout. Start over and complete the survey without taking a break.

What happens to the data collected in the survey?
Survey data are transmitted directly from the central LibQual server to a secure database. The data are then analyzed and reports generated for the individual libraries. These reports will provide the WVU Libraries with detailed information on how our users perceive the quality of their library service.

Where can I find more information online?
The official home page of LibQual is located at Click on the About LibQual link to find information about the origins of LibQual, the people involved, how the project is funded, and a bibliography.

Is there a person I can talk to about the survey?
If you are having trouble with the survey or have questions, please contact the Associate Dean of Libraries, Myra Lowe at 304-293-0305 or

What do I get for doing the survey?
If you choose, your name will be entered in a drawing from all WVU responses for an iPod Nano. We will be giving iPods to three survey participants. Please follow the instructions on the survey form to enter. The Association of Research Libraries will conduct the drawing and notify the WVU Libraries.

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