Librarianship is a profession and an academic discipline that is as old as human existence. As a human-centered discipline, the essence of its being has always been to inform, educate, and preserve cultural affinities, among others. Consequently, information users have always been taking a central place in library resources acquisition and service delivery. This act is not unconnected with the submission of Ranganathan’s 1931 law of Library Science which states that: Books are for use; Every user his book; Every book his users; Save the time of users; Library is a growing organism. Ranganathan’s opinion of library law is still arguably relevant to all libraries activities, regardless of their types or users. However, it is good to point out that Ranganathan’s law of librarianship, though essential, does not make provision for changing nature of users and how libraries can satisfy them. One of the lapses of the law, in my view of contributing to scholarship and advancing the frontier of librarianship globally is that, issues relating to information services and how users should be treated were not covered in the law. Therefore, since library is a growing organism, librarians, as managers of the organisms have to grow as well, as a matter of necessity. Such growths have to come through conference and workshop attendance as well as review of literature, among others. The attempt in this article is to expose librarians and information professionals globally to the need to expand the view of librarianship by exploring the possibilities of meeting the demands of the present users. This is because users’ satisfaction is the most important need to be met. One of the methods of ensuring that users are satisfied is for librarians to focus on Service Management in libraries.
The essence of libraries globally is to provide information products and services that have capacity to satisfy the needs of her users. Manny scholars all over the world have conducted several studies using different parameters to measure users’ satisfaction. Saika and Gohain (2013) conducted a study on user’s satisfaction on Library Resources and Services in Tezpur University India and reported that 63 (39.62%) of the respondent were highly satisfied with the online database resources and 63 (39.62%) of the respondent were also satisfied with the regular supply of newspapers/magazine. The finding also revealed that majority of the respondents were satisfied with the electronic information services, current awareness services, reservation of library resources to users, reprographic services. It was however, discovered that users were dissatisfied with the mobile alert services.
Ikolo’s (2015) study focused on user’s satisfaction with library services at Delta State University Library, Nigeria. The study revealed that library users were not satisfied with reference services, inter-library loan services, electronic database services, photocopying services, bindery services, weekend library services, book lending services, CD- ROM services and indexing and abstracting services. It was also seen that library users were not satisfied with the existing textbooks available on shelves, internet services, newspapers/ magazines, journals and the inability to borrow books from the library.
The studies cited have clearly revealed that libraries have gone long away from2600BC when collections of clay tablets where stored in temple rooms. Information resources are now stored in the virtual space where users can access and not be limited by library distance, closing hours or time. These changes have also made libraries/librarians become advocates, educators, content developers, publishers as well as Research and Development specialists. It is good to note that since the medieval times, libraries and librarians been transiting giving the prevalent societal evolutions. Since this is the case, it is imperative for librarians to note that for their users to be satisfied with the information services being provided, attention must be shifted to the modern process of knowledge creation and dissemination; features of current library users; digital means of accessing information; and the changing library roles in meeting users’ information needs. It is hereby suggested that effort should not be focused on information resources; librarians need to do more in the area of service management as well.
Libraries are regarded as service sectors and are competing with other information service providers in the quest to gain and retain customers who will use their products and services. Thus, there is need for constant awareness by libraries and librarians on the changes that are taking place in the service scene and how such can be used for competitive advantage. Such awareness may not come without noticeable understanding of the nature and dimensions of Service Management as a concept. There are many descriptions of service but almost all of them have a place of convergence that points to intangibility and consumption natures of any service.
Gronroos (1990) submitted that a service is an activity or series of activities of more or less intangible nature that normally, but not necessarily, take place in interactions between customer and service employees or physical resources or good and systems of the service provider which are provided as solution to customer problems. Services can be defined as economic activities that produce time, place, form, or psychological utilities. Services are acts, deeds, or performances; they are intangible. Services also can be defined in contrast to goods. A good is a tangible object that can be created and sold or used later. A service is intangible and perishable. It is created and consumed simultaneously (or nearly simultaneously). Although these definitions may seem straightforward, the distinction between goods and services is not always clear-cut (Haksever, 2013). It is obvious from the two descriptions that a service is intangible, heterogeneous, inseparable and perishable. In addition, a customer can only pay to use a service and not to own it. Service Management is a broad concept that involves issues like designing the service enterprise, managing service operations, and qualitative models for service management. Hence, the concept as treated in this article will be restricted to service strategy of winning customers in the marketplace.
The advances in the information landscape being influenced by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is constantly changing the nature of information services being rendered by libraries. In the digital age, libraries have a new role in sharing information. Libraries are no longer heaps of books; the general library environment has been changed from analogue to digital. Thus, Shivakumar (2017) highlighted some of his observations as follow: librarians are designated as cyber librarians; publishers now direct information retrieval to the users; there is rapid growth in the network-based delivery of the scholarly information services; there are more trends and advocacy to develop digital contents to facilitate access; users are less dependent on the academic library for current information; web is becoming the more preferred user interface; customer-centered approach in provision of information services is more required; ease of access from the user point of view and preference has to become one of the major considerations while access role of the academic library replace custodial role. The highlights of the changes stated have implication for the competitive rivalry nature among information service industries which is being aided by bargaining power of customers and suppliers-information provider.
In order for libraries not to be annihilated by the changes in the way information services are being rendered to continually guarantee users’ satisfaction, libraries and librarians all over the world need to be aware of the following criteria with which users select their information service providers.
• Availability: In this digital age, libraries need to create and facilitate access to information and resources 24/7 through library web sites and other databases. Information users want to access information anytime of the day, thus, location and mode of access should not be a barrier.
• Convenience: The location and the process of access must be such that is expedient for the users. In other words, information resources should be easy to retrieve for the users either through the library websites or other electronic databases. This aspect has implication for librarians to enhance their skills in Information/Website Architecture.
• Dependability: Libraries and librarians should manage their electronic services in a way to ensure that they are constant. Information users easily lose trust in a service that is not dependable. Thus, machinery should be put in place to ensure that there is little or no down time in service delivery.
• Personalization and Cost: While librarians render various information services to the users, it is imperative to treat the users as individual by customizing their peculiar needs and working towards meeting those needs. This could be achieved through electronic Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI). In addition, the cost of using library services must not be too high. This cost is beyond monetary only; it also involves the cost of access, distance, and retrieval.
• Service Quality and Reputation: Service quality is the users’ judgment of the difference between his/her expectation of a service and the service experienced. This judgment is usually subjective to the process and outcome of a service delivery as well as the service provider. Users’ experience forms parts of the library’s reputation as a service provider. The more good/bad the users discuss among themselves about library services, the more libraries’ reputation is formed. Essentially, libraries should provide quality services that surpass users’ expectations in order to maintain and sustain good reputation.
Information resources are valuable to achieving library aims and objectives; this however should not be at the detriment of serious attention on information service management. Libraries now operate in a marketplace where customers/users are keenly sought for in order for information service providers to remain relevant. Libraries cannot afford to be less informed about the importance of service management because it is one of the best ways of ensuring users satisfaction. There is serious competition among service providers in the information sector and thus, libraries must do everything possible to rebrand their services in a way to satisfy their users.
Gronroos, C (1990) Service Management and Marketing, Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books.
Haksever, C. (2013) Service Management: an integrated approach to supply chain management and operations. Retrieved May 3, 2018 from http://ptgmedia.pearsoncmg.com/images/9780133088779/samplepages/0133088774.pdf
Ikolo, V. E. (2015). User satisfaction with library services: a case study of Delta State University library. International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education. 11(2), 80- 89.
Saika, M. and Gohain, A. (2013). Use and user’s satisfaction on library resources and services in Tezpur University (India): a study. Library Philosophy and Practice
Shivakumar, G.T. (2017) Impact of Digital Era on Academic Libraries: It’s Play with Library Professionals. International Journal of Library & Information Science (IJLIS) 6.4: 1–7. Retrieved May 5, 2018 from https://www.iaeme.com/MasterAdmin/uploadfolder/IJLIS_06_04_001/IJLIS_06_04_001 .pdf
Author: Adebayo John Oluwaseye, CLN
Reference and Electronic Resources Librarian, Chrisland Universities, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria