Using the gap model to assess users’ perception of service quality levels in academic libraries a case of post modern library, Kenyatta University and USIU Library
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The purpose of the study was to use the Gap Model to identify the service quality levels that exist at Kenyatta University, Moi Library and USIU Library as perceived by the users. The problem that the study addressed was that libraries have continued to assess service quality based on the perspective of the service providers, the librarians. Libraries cite statistics on the library budget, the number of volumes the library holds, the size of the library building and the number of users. A library with more books and bigger library budget is considered better than one with fewer books and a smaller budget. Even though these statistics are useful, they are not true measures of service quality. A number of studies have continued to show service quality in libraries as generally wanting. (Schmidt and Searing, 1988; Nitechi, 1996; Nitechi and Hernon, 2000). The researcher therefore decided to use the Gap Model and assess service quality from the perspective of the user. The researcher analysed the expectations and perceptions of users on al aspects of service quality in libraries. It is users of a service who define quality. (Hernon and Altman, 1995). The specific objectives of the study were to find out from the users of the libraries their perception of the following attributes of service quality: Physical facilities, service reliability, service responsiveness, service assurance and service empathy. The study used the Confirmation/Disconfirmation Theory (Wang and Pearson, 2002). (This theory states that before a user uses any service, they have certain expectations of the service which can either be confirmed in case the user is satisfied with the service or disconfirmed if what the user expected from that particular service is not what they got). A user‟s expectations of a given service are influenced by what he/she has heard from others, how the service is advertised by the providers or the user‟s previous experience. The study used the descriptive case study design. A questionnaire was used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. Users perception of service quality was determined and compared to their expectations of the service. The study sampled a total of 1095 library users from both Kenyatta University Library and USIU Library. The sample captured all categories of users of University libraries such as young, old, male, female, students and teaching staff. The study used the SERVQUAL research tool. This is a 22-item questionnaire that has been used to measure service quality in service organizations. It measures a user‟s perception of service quality and compares that with the user‟s expectations. A value „x‟ which is called a Service Gap Score is obtained by subtracting expectations score from the perception score (P-E=‟X‟). However, the SERVQUAL tool was adopted by the researcher by adding two questions intended to capture qualitative service quality data. The tool was tested for reliability.Data was collected through use of a questionnaire (The SERVQUAL) and personally administered by the researcher and his assistants. Names and telephone contact of all those who were given questionnaire were recorded and through calling for reminders, the researcher was able to achieve a high return rate. The researcher targeted a sample of 1117 users and was able to get responses from 1095 users therefore achieving over 90% return rate. Data was analysed using the SPSS. A finding of the study was that students used the library more than teaching staff in both universities. Among the five service quality determinants that were examined, it was service responsiveness and empathy that were rated poorly by all categories of users, male, female, staff and students. These two variables involve library staff interaction with users. The study also found that gender does not have a major influence on service quality perception. Likewise, there was no major difference between staff and student perception of service quality in libraries. The study arrived at the overall conclusion that the widespread view that library users do xv not know what they want from libraries and cannot therefore be good judges of service quality (Hernon & Altman, 1996) is mistaken. The study showed that library users were able to clearly pinpoint areas were service quality was below their expectations and also those they felt service quality met their expectations. Libraries therefore need to work more on improving staff/user relations in their delivery of service. There is need for serious training of staff on issues of public relations and customer care. Library schools also need to factor issues of customer care in their training of library staff.