rusq: Vol. 50 Issue 2: p. 191
Sources: Assessing Service Quality
Karen Antell, Lisa Powell Williams

Lisa Powell Williams, Adult Services Coordinator, Moline (Ill.) Public Library, Illinois

Assessing Service Quality is an admirable blend of theoretical, statistical, and pragmatic assessment applications for academic and public libraries. Providing several methods to address library services and patron concerns, this is a primer for library practitioners. Hernon and Altman acknowledge that “the most serious problem with traditional statistics is that they do not indicate how well libraries serve customers or how libraries might change or improve their service” (122).

Ideas to aid in library service measurement and responsiveness include embracing patron complaints as a means to improve service by tracking them in a manner similar to the way FedEx tracks shipping; surveying a library’s internal customers (staff); and charting library patron loyalty. Each of these concepts can be implemented readily without disruptive changes in the daily library workflow. The methods reviewed will help librarians become intentional in their approach to improving library services.

Several chapters conclude with a summary outline, as well as copious endnotes. The book is well indexed and provides an extensive bibliography. A complementary resource is The Quality Library: A Guide to Self-Improvement, Better Efficiency and Happier Customers by Sara Laughlin and Ray W. Wilson (ALA, 2008).

The central theme of this book is that “libraries must communicate with their broader community in understandable and meaningful terms” (173). The authors succeed in providing a multiplicity of ideas that apply quantifiable and qualitative measures to patron service. New ways to interpret statistics provide libraries with better ways to articulate their worth to the public. For example, “the annual per capita cost of library services is the same as the cost of a movie for two with popcorn and drinks” (172)—a statement that captures the libraries’ value in terms patrons can comprehend readily.

Assessing Service Quality is recommended for both public and academic libraries. However, the heft of the $65 price tag will place this out of reach for many small and medium-size public libraries.

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