User Satisfaction

What is user satisfaction? 

  • Satisfaction with library and knowledge services (LKS) usually relates to quality of service provision
  • Satisfaction measurements can help assess whether the library meets required service standards, or whether the LKS provision meets the expectations that users have for the library (Urquhart and Turner, 2016 in press)
  • However, satisfaction cannot tell you whether your services make a difference or  how the information or services you have provided are used. For this you need to measure impact.  

There are a range of ideas below from simple measures of satisfaction to more complex questionnaires or approaches.   

Simple questions could be added to a wider impact survey, such as 

  • Were you satisfied with the service you received?” 
  • Was the information relevant to your needs?” 
  • Was the information provided in a timely manner?” 

Measuring satisfaction in the NHS 

  • The NHS emphasis is on measuring patient satisfaction
  • National Programmes collect data to measure the quality of the patient experience with NHS services
  • The Friends and Family Test is widely used as a simple measure to determine whether patients have been satisfied with their inpatient care.   

Answers are ranked from “extremely likely” to “extremely unlikely” and participants have an opportunity to explain rankings by adding comments.  

  • The question could be easily adapted for use by health libraries.  It would provide simple data in line with that collected across the organisation.  For example 

“How likely are you to recommend our knowledge and library service to colleagues if they needed similar information or resources?” 

  • This feedback could be used to improve the quality of LKSs to users.

Measuring satisfaction in academic institutions and academic libraries 

National Student Survey 
  • In the UK the National Student Survey (NSS) is a widely used, authoritative and national survey
  • It is run annually and provides information on the satisfaction of final year undergraduates with all aspects of their University courses
  • There is a section on learning resources: “ The library resources and services are good enough for my needs   
  • Answers are ranked on a 5 point scale from “definitely agree to definitely disagree” 
  • Libraries at higher education institutions use the responses from the questionnaire to help with planning
  • This question could be used to measure user satisfaction with library services more generally
  • Libqual is a validated standardised survey widely used in academic libraries to measure satisfaction
  • It also asks what users expect from the library service
  • In the UK, it is run by Sconul so that participating libraries can benchmark their performance against other university libraries
  • The survey comprises 22 items and 5 additional items can be added relevant to the local library
  • There is considerable amount of guidance available to help administer the survey and analyse the results
Customer Value Discovery 
  • Allows libraries to find out what students like and dislike about services
  • The process enables libraries to determine what users view as the ideal service and identify any existing practices that are irritants
  • It also helps library staff see how they are performing from a user’s perspective
  • The process was used in Nottingham Trent Library. It involved series of workshops with both library staff and undergraduate users
  • The process is described  in a talk by Sue McKnight in 2012 and McKnight and Berrington, 2008 
  • Changes were evaluated in subsequent years using NSS data. 


See also : User satisfaction tools