Service quality in the academic libraries in Kenya

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University of Zululand
The subject of service quality has been widely researched in various sectors, and academic libraries are no exception. It has become imperative that university libraries in Africa, Kenya in particular, re-examine their existence in academia, in order to justify the need for their services. This study seeks to establish the level of service quality in Kenyan academic libraries by analysing, evaluating, and assessing the service delivery of the academic libraries. It was guided by the following specific objectives: To evaluate the influence that the service parameters (human resource practices, technology, the library environment and infrastructure, information resources, etc.) have on the service quality in academic libraries; assess the library customer service orientation and its influence on service quality in the academic libraries; assess how the range of services/products offered by academic libraries influence service quality in the academic libraries; and analyse the level of library customer retention/attraction strategies and service delivery approaches and their influence on service quality in the academic libraries. The Gap model adopted for the current study suggests that customer satisfaction is often not achieved as a result of gaps/shortfalls in the service delivery process. Descriptive survey research method was employed, guided by the study’s research objectives. Mixed method approach was used to generate both the qualitative and quantitative data. From the entire list of accredited universities in Kenya, a sample of 10 (ten) institutions was selected. Systematic random sampling, random sampling, purposive methods were employed to identify the actual sample size for the different strata. In total seven hundred and fourteen (714) questionnaires were returned from the external library customers (55% males and 45% females); while for the internal library customers (librarians), 47 out of the 80 questionnaires administered were returned (43% males and 57% females). This gave an overall, 76% response rate. Purposive sampling procedure was used to identify the interview participants (who were the senior management of the academic libraries) using an interview schedule, in total 10 interviews were conducted; while observation was guided by an observation schedule that was obtrusively applied to capture information on the general state of each of the academic libraries, the facilities, and the service delivery processes. SPSS was used for data analysis, descriptive statistics, factor analysis and multiple regression. Findings of the study revealed that academic libraries in Kenya are faced with a myriad of challenges such as a growing and divergent population, limited range of information resources and services, poor infrastructure, inadequate staff working areas and tools, limited budgets, heavy bureaucratic tendencies, lack of top institutional management support, poor leadership by the departmental heads, and lack of clear market orientation strategies. The above concerns notwithstanding, the study showed that the academic libraries are endowed with a rich pool of well-trained information professionals, large market for services, and customers’ goodwill; all of which need to be fully exploited. Also noted was that the academic libraries are poorly equipped to cater for people with disabilities (PWDs). The study recommends the following: a radical shift in the management of the academic libraries; the creation of an enabling environment for optimal service delivery; greater supervision by the Commission for University Education (CUE), and a policy framework that will guide the overall operations of the academic libraries. This study has strong implications for the improvement of library and information services for customer satisfaction in Kenya, and perhaps, elsewhere.
Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Science in accordance with the requirements for the Doctor of Arts in the Department of Library and Information Science, at the University of Zululand, 2022.