User Satisfaction

Introduction   –   KfH Impact Tools   –  What and for whom?   –   Definitions   –   Methods   –   Tools  –   References

Satisfaction with library services is usually related to quality of service provision. Satisfaction measurements can help assess whether the library meets the required service standards, or whether the library service 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 let you know how the information or services you have provided may be used.  For this you would 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

Within the NHS there is an emphasis on patient satisfaction, with National Programmes collecting 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.  Although not validated or published for use in health libraries, the question could be easily adapted for use by health libraries and would provide simple data in line with that collected across the organisation.  For example

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

Answers are ranked from “extremely likely” to “extremely unlikely” and participants have an opportunity to explain rankings by adding comments.  This feedback could be used to improve the quality of library services to their users.

Measuring satisfaction in academic institutions and academic libraries

In the UK the National Student Survey is a widely used, authoritative and national survey run annually and provides information on the satisfaction of final year undergraduates regarding all aspects of their University courses.  There is a section on learning resources, with one item particularly relevant to libraries

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 are able to obtain the responses from the questionnaire at an institutional level to help with their planning, but this could also be used as another simple example of a question to measure user satisfaction with library services more generally.


Libqual is a validated standardised survey that is widely used in academic libraries to measure satisfaction.  It also asks what users expect from the library service, and in the UK it is run by Sconul so that participating libraries can benchmark their performance against other university libraries.  There is considerable amount of guidance available to help administer the survey and analyse the results.  The survey comprises 22 items and 5 additional items can be added relevant to the local library.

Customer Value Discovery

Customer value discovery allows libraries to find out what students like and dislike about services.  The process enables the library to determine what users view as the ideal service and the identification of existing practices that are irritants, at the same time helping library staff see how they are performing from a users perspective.  The process was used in Nottingham Trent Library and involved series of workshops with both library staff and undergraduate users.  The process is described here and in (McKnight and Berrington, 2008) and changes were evaluated in subsequent years using NSS data.

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