AS ARL LIBRARIES BEGIN SERIOUSLY TO ASSESS how well they are anticipating, meeting, and delighting students and faculty, the primary focus should be on understanding customers' needs, learning quick and clean methods of data gathering and analysis, improving critical processes, and developing internal capacity to be successful in the future. To transform the work and how it is accomplished, libraries must begin listening and acting on the voices of customers, staff, work processes, and the organization for the purpose of learning new directions and partnering with customers.
The purpose of sharing macro data among ARL libraries should be to provide benchmarking information for the overall improvement of academic libraries. The purpose of gathering service quality data should be to identify what is working well and what is not and to increase knowledge of customer requirements. Data gathering must be easy, meaningful, and clearly related to customer satisfaction for staff to commit to using performance measures. Involving staff in strategic library-wide and unit level strategic planning will be key to building this commitment. Methodologies, such as LibQUAL+, can work as "pointers" to the need to study specific processes. Gathering data from the process itself is one of the most efficient methods for measuring performance and is also useful for helping staff recognize the need to change and enhance services. Using these data to develop performance and learning goals supports continuing customer focus. As the customer perspective is integrated into planning and decision-making, practicing the disciplines of the learning organization will ensure the development of the organizational capacity to respond to this new picture of reality.
As the Association of Research Libraries undertakes the development of "new measures," the intent and expected outcomes must be clean This new initiative involves more than the application of new measures. The effect of this effort appropriately includes the design of new methodologies that focus libraries on customers. It is recognition that customers are key partners in our enterprise and will, in fact, determine the future of research libraries. Collecting data from and about customers will help in the design and development of the future mission critical work processes and service priorities of academic research libraries--many of which may not be in the current portfolio or are not appropriately staffed and organized for the greatest efficiency. As these new methodologies are examined, it is critical to recognize that they are part of a major culture change for libraries. Satisfaction and other customer data, such as needs assessment results, will be gathered that have major relevance and meaning for staff and a change in the organization of work. Previously, ARL input data was understood and shared within a small group of administrators who drew assumptions from it and who created administrative budget strategies at the campus level to justify funding increases. The utilization of outcome data from the customers' perception of expected service quality should lead to a wider sharing and internal use of this information for the purpose of improving processes and to engage in formal organizational learning.
Service quality measurement is but one step in the process of transforming libraries so they can participate as full collaborators and leaders in the necessary and positive transformational changes in higher education. The library of the twenty-first century must be a new entity. Educating staff in the utilization of new measures will increase the required capacity for organizational learning that will support the creation of this new library.
Leading in these new directions will be challenging. Different leadership skills and different organizational systems that support staff in their efforts to understand and embrace these changes will be critical to success. Staff will need to re-focus their efforts on performance for customers; redesign work to be cost-efficient and of improved quality; and develop new analytical, technical, and teamwork competencies that will enable future success.
The need for culture change is clear and fundamental. Despite claims to the contrary, academic libraries are internally focused--choosing and planning work priorities based on present competence, traditional work processes, and limited resources. Analysis of results for customers is not a common practice. There is an underlying fear that expectations may develop that cannot be met. Libraries often have been content with meeting minimum expectations. Through LibQUAL+ and needs assessment instruments, the "desired" expectations, as regards level of service quality and new services, will be more fully understood. Without this understanding, the capability to be viable in the future will be limited. Desired expectations are changing rapidly in the technology-enabled environment within which library services are offered. There is a real possibility that the corporate world will develop the capabilities to appear to exceed even the highest expectations of library users. There is a danger that this will result in a shift of resource allocation and customer loyalty. As faculty and students perceive that the retrieval of relevant information from alternate sources is easier, faster, and sufficient for their present needs, their support of the library, as central to research and teaching, will diminish. The private sector competition has and will continue to recognize the market share to be gained from this customer group, and libraries as they are presently configured will increasingly be marginalized within the educational and research process.
Despite concern and some progress on implementing improvements, in many libraries, present work processes are not cost efficient, and the allocation of resources does not reflect strategic preparation for this radically different future. There is a lack of understanding of how work can be organized to avoid bottlenecks, backlogs, and redundancy. There is little awareness of the actual time or cost involved in delivering products and services. There are too many positions devoted to unnecessary supervision, management, and administration. The need for resource reallocation is understood, but the skills to conduct cost studies and lasting quality improvement initiatives are lacking within the profession.
New measures and a focus on customers are first steps in the right direction for inventing the future libraries that future customers will need. The development of a new culture of research librarianship is critically intertwined with these new initiatives. In this new customer-focused culture, every staff member cares about results. They partner with customers and seek to understand what is needed now and in the future. They know what future to prepare for and know when their work is progressing toward desired results. They know how to analyze their work processes for continuous improvement. All staff members make radical changes in how they organize and manage their work processes, and they learn the new skills and knowledge required for new services and products. And last, they are fully supported by an organization designed to tap their full potential and commitment and reward their efforts to succeed.
This article will examine these four aspects of culture change: (1) listening to the voices of the customers by developing cooperative partnerships with them; (2) listening to the voices of the staff by creating systems that support staff performance for the future; (3) listening to the voice of the process by learning continuous improvement methodologies to identify whether work processes are effective and efficient; and (4) listening to the voice of the organization by turning libraries into organizations focused on creating the desired future and maximizing the capacity to achieve it.
LISTENING TO THE VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER; DEVELOPING COOPERATIVE PARTNERSHIPS WITH CUSTOMERS
The advent of the globalization of the market economy has been described as the customer's victory. "We are moving from a long-standing period in which what was scarce was the product, to a period where what is scarce is the customer" (Dupuy, 1999, p. 38). No longer can successful organizations focus inward on their own capabilities and processes; they must understand the complex relationship they have with customers and cooperate with them to develop new products and continuously improve according to changing demands and technological potential. Libraries have moved from an environment where they had a virtual monopoly on information access to one where databases, Web resources, and vendors are plentiful and customers have choices. Libraries are no longer the sole providers of access to comprehensive collections of research articles. Electronic and print books are available from dot-com enterprises with a faster turnaround time than libraries have traditionally provided. Information that appears to be relevant, accurate, and timely abounds on freely accessed Web sites. This has led to the need for the development of a formal and extensive capacity to listen to customers and to become listening organizations. "Listening (in our organizations) is a set of behaviours, of arrangements, of co-operative efforts; it includes how employees' careers evolve, and through this their status in the company, their benefits, their privileges. In order to truly listen to the customer, one must begin by taking a closer look at all of these various domains. In many cases, listening can be quite painful" (Dupuy, 1999, p. 43).
It is critical to recognize that academic research libraries are part of the global economy. One need only look at the effect of Internet access to Web-based information on reference services in academic libraries; at the complexities of the competing economic models of "ownership" among international publishing conglomerates, vendors, authors, and libraries; at the progressive evolution of "distributed learning" and the creation of "internet universities"; or at the current challenge faced when recruiting and retaining the technologically talented. The content (information), the methodologies (technology), and those employed (staff) within the library business, are affecting and affected by the globalization of the economy. Commitment to professional values and a service and educational ethic is foundational in this changing environment. Survival is an explicit goal in an era of competition if there truly is a value-added quality to the library's contribution to the educational enterprise that must be preserved.
LIBQUAL+: A FIRST STEP IN DEVELOPING COOPERATIVE PARTNERSHIPS WITH CUSTOMERS
The adaptation of the LibQUAL+ instrument is a key initiative that is critical to learning what is important to customers and how they perceive library services in relation to their expectations. First, it represents the first national effort on the part of research libraries to focus directly on the voice of the customer--to move from the inward focus on inputs and production capability to outputs and outcomes. Second, it has been designed and piloted in the spirit of sharing benchmarking information among cooperating libraries. This is a welcome new direction from "colleague competition" toward an expanded view of academic research libraries as part of a larger system engaged in cooperation in an environment that is increasingly characterized by boundless/placeless opportunities for offering higher education.
LibQUAL+ also creates a new culture of …