Still Bound for Disappointment? Another Look at Faculty and Library Journal Collections

Jennifer Rutner, James Self


Objective – To examine why faculty members at Columbia University are dissatisfied with the library’s journal collections and to follow up on a previous study that found negative perceptions of journal collections among faculty at Association of Research Libraries (ARL) member institutions in general.

Methods – In 2006, Jim Self of the University of Virginia published the results of an analysis of LibQUAL+® survey data for ARL member libraries, focusing on faculty perceptions of journal collections as measured by LibQUAL+® item IC-8: “print and/or electronic journal collections I require for my work.” The current analysis includes data from 21 ARL libraries participating in the LibQUAL+® survey from 2006 through 2009. Notebooks for each library were accessed and reviewed for the Information Control and overall satisfaction scores. At Columbia, the results were used to identify departments with negative adequacy gaps for the IC-8 item. Follow-up phone interviews were conducted with 24 faculty members in these departments, focusing on their minimum expectation for journal collections, their desired expectations, and preferences for print or electronic journals.

Results – Analysis of the 2009 LibQUAL+® scores shows that faculty across ARL libraries remain dissatisfied with journal collections. None of the libraries achieved a positive adequacy gap, in which the perceived level of service exceeded minimum expectations. There was no significant change in the adequacy gap for the IC-8 item since 2006, and satisfaction relative to expectations remained consistent, showing neither improvement nor decline. While most of the faculty members interviewed at Columbia stated that the journal collections met their minimum expectations, 15 of 24 reported that the library did not meet their desired level of service in this area. Key issues identified in the interviews included insufficient support from library staff and systems regarding journal acquisition and use, the need for work-arounds for accessing needed journals, problems with search and online access, collection gaps, insufficient backfile coverage, and the desire for a discipline-specific “quick list” to provide access to important journals.

Conclusion – The issue of satisfaction with journal collections is complex, and faculty members have little tolerance for faulty systems. The evolution of the electronic journal collections and the inherent access challenges will continue to play a critical role in faculty satisfaction as libraries strive to provide ever-better service.

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