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1.1: Background of the Study

Service quality and customers/students satisfaction have received a great deal of attention from both scholars and practitioners because of their relevance and relationship, according to Eshghi & Ganguli (2008) and the main reason for focusing on these issues is to improve the overall performance of organizations (Magi & Julander, 1996).

Various studies have focused on customers/students satisfaction and others have dealt with service quality as standalone concepts, whereas others have focused on the link between service quality, effiency studies and best practices. Some studies have concluded that quality leads to satisfaction received from best practices, Negi (2009) and others support that satisfaction leads to quality (Cronin & Taylor, 1992). Others like Parasuraman et al. (1988) propose that quality and satisfaction are determined by the same attributes. Saravanan & Rao (2007) proposed that customer satisfaction is based on the level of service quality delivered by the service providers.

These and many other studies confirm that there is a relationship between service quality , best practice and efficiency studies but according to Asubonteng et al., (1996), there is no agreement on the exact nature of this relationship. Asubonteng et al. (1996) however, agree with other researchers that the two concepts have attributes that are measurable.

According to Cullen (2001), academic libraries are facing two main threats: a global digital environment and increasing competition. Cullen further argues that, the quality of an academic library has historically been described in terms of its collection and measured by the size of the library’s holdings and various counts of its uses. He continues to assert that such parameters have since been rendered obsolete due to the emergence of alternative and more efficient and effective approaches.

One of the most significant trends in both private and public universities in Kenya in the recent past has been a rapid expansion to cater for the growing needs of new scholars. The introduction of Privately Sponsored Student Programmes (PSSP) has opened invaluable opportunities to those individuals who had attained the minimum university requirements but had no possibility of securing an admission because of the limited

opportunities available in the regular/government funded programmes. This has however, resulted to a number of challenges because the increase in enrollment numbers has not been matched by the provision of adequate teaching and research facilities and resources (Abangi, 1995).

As Rowley (2006) asks, ‘What is the relationship between service quality and customer satisfaction?’ This question has not been addressed by many libraries and limited research in the field of Library and Information Science in the country has tackled it. It therefore raises many questions on the application of service quality models and user satisfaction surveys in libraries and information services among universities in Kenya.

This study, therefore, seeks to address this issue by focusing on the libraries within universities in Kenya and examining whether there is any relationship between service quality and user satisfaction.

1.1.1: Service Quality

Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry (1988) defined service quality as the global evaluation or attitude of overall excellence of the services provided by a service firm.

Hernon & Altman (1998) also defined service quality in terms of reducing the gap between the user expectations and actual service provided. The two concluded that service quality focuses on the interaction between customers and service providers, and the gap or the differences between expectations and perception of the services provided.

For the purposes of this study, the definition of service quality adopted is, ‘the measure of how well the service level delivered matches customer expectations, that is, the difference between the expected and perceived levels of service (Parasuraman et al., 1994)’.

Service quality deals with the interaction between customers and service providers. The expectations of customers in a service encounter shape their assessment of quality for that service. When there is a mismatch between the customer’s expectations and the service delivered, the perceived service quality will suffer. If customer expectations are greater than the service provider’s performance, then the perceived quality is less than satisfactory and hence customer dissatisfaction occurs (Berry et al., 1985). Failure by the

service provider to identify and satisfy their customer’s expectation automatically leads to the emergence of a quality gap. Delivering quality service therefore means conforming to customer expectations on a consistent basis.

The conceptualization of service quality in academic libraries is no different from conceptualizations in other service contexts. Parasuraman et al. (1985) studied different types of industries that are, banking, credit card companies, motor repair shops, telecommunication companies and educational institutions and the results revealed that service quality had uniform dimensions across all these industries.

In this study, the five dimensions developed by Valerie et al. (1985) were employed in a framework known as the SERVQUAL model, discussed in later chapters.

1.1.2: Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction has been defined as a judgment that a product or service feature, or the product or service itself, provides pleasurable consumption (Oliver, 1997).

Customer satisfaction can also be described as a fulfillment response of service and an attitude change as a result of the consumption (Gibson, 2005). Gibson further asserts that understanding the factors that influence customer satisfaction makes it easier for the service provider to design and deliver service offers that correspond to customer demands.

Andreassen (2001) asserts that customer satisfaction can be viewed as an evaluation where expectations and experiences are compared. A service failure results when the service delivery does not manage to meet customer expectations. Often service recovery begins with a customer complaint.

Kotler & Armstrong (1996) defined customer satisfaction as the level of a person’s felt state resulting from comparing a product’s/ service’s perceived performance or outcome. This study, therefore, defines customer satisfaction as ‘the overall cumulative judgment based on collective encounters with a service provider over time’ (Hansenmark & Albinsson, 2004).

Customer satisfaction, just like service quality, deals with expectations and draws on the confirmation/ non-confirmation process. Satisfaction studies are aimed at identifying if some general areas require scrutiny, whereas service quality studies provide data to examine problem areas for improvement. Overall satisfaction on the other hand is a cumulative judgment based on collective encounters with a particular service provider over a period of time (Hernon and Whitman, 2002).

1.1.3: Libraries among Universities in Nigeria

The history of libraries in Nigeria can be traced back to the second half of the 19th century, brought about by the western civilization. The development of Nigeria’s library system comprises public, academic and special libraries, each providing dissimilar nature of services depending on the intended objectives and target clientele (Otike, 2004).

Academic libraries include those of public and private Universities, national polytechnics, teachers training colleges and private and public tertiary colleges. Academic libraries are aimed at supporting teaching and research within and without their institutions. Special libraries, on the other hand, are the ones owned by government ministries, businesses, NGOs, International bodies and diplomatic missions with concerns in matters of Agriculture, health, law and technology among others (Kavulya, 2004).

Kenya is home to 22 public universities and 26 privately owned universities, with a total of 48 universities. Some of these universities have subsidiaries spread across the country while others have only a single branch. Each of these universities has at least one library, with others having more than one, depending on the number of subsidiaries.

Most libraries have embraced modern technology by having the facilities connected to the internet. This has enabled easy access to online material from various sources.

A study conducted by in Nigeria by TNS global (2011) revealed that 55% of public libraries have 10 or fewer computers; 40% have more than 10 computers; however, most computers are for library staff, and not library users. The study also established that only 15% of public library users have access to either computers or the internet. This is despite

the fact that physical libraries in most developed countries are depended on computer networks to provide access to information resources (Elbert, 2011).

We are living in the information age, and the internet is reshaping so many aspects of people’s lives. There is a growing concern that the internet may eventually render libraries obsolete. It is worth noting that most libraries now offer an abundance of programmes and services beyond the traditional book lending. In Nigeria, however, there is still a large population of people who do not have access to computers and/ or cannot afford to pay for internet access. According to Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK, 2012), internet penetration in Nigeria stood at a mere 41% as at December 2012. This low level of penetration validates the indispensable need for libraries in Nigeria.

1.2: Statement of the Problem

Different aspects of customer satisfaction have been studied by different scholars, from its measurement to its relationship with other business concepts. Specifically, the relationship between customer satisfaction and service quality has been studied in numerous sectors, and various conclusions have been reached.

I-Ming and Hsieh (1996) studied customer satisfaction in twenty one Nigeria university libraries and found that competence, tangibles, communications, convenience, responsiveness, assurance, and resources were the influencing factors. The study did not, however, investigate whether changes in service quality leads to variations in user satisfaction levels.

Lee et al. (2000) conducted a study on mobile phone services in France and observed that customer satisfaction is determined by the level of service quality provided by the service provider and that service quality acts as a determinant of customer satisfaction.

Jalal et al. (2012) set out to assess the relationship between service quality and customer satisfaction at Universities in the Northern region of Malaysia using the SERVQUAL model. The results of the study revealed that the five dimensions of service quality (tangibles, responsiveness, reliability, empathy and quality assurance) had a strong relationship with students’ satisfaction. These results were consistent with the findings by Bigne et al.

(2003)  who after studying Spanish public services concluded that there was a significant relationship between service quality and customer satisfaction. These studies are, however, limited in that only data from undergraduate students was used.

Nitecki & Hernon (2000) conducted a study to determine the measures of service quality and customer satisfaction, at Yale University’s Libraries in the United States and concluded that there were three dimensions for measuring service quality and customer satisfaction in libraries, namely: tangibles, reliability or service efficiency, and affect of service. The two, however, pointed out that there was need for further research to explore the dimensions further.

According to Teshome (2008), Nigeria’s higher education institutions face a decline in the quality of education, learning and research due to deteriorating facilities, limited and obsolete library resources, outdated curricula, poorly prepared secondary students and an absence of academic rigor and systematic evaluation of performance. Even though the study addressed the issue of service quality in Nigerian libraries, only two libraries were sampled.

Amollo (2011) observed that libraries in Nigeria are faced with financial constraints, inadequate facilities, unskilled personnel, high staff turnover and lack of high level managerial support. Amollo, therefore, recommended for more government intervention to help the libraries acquire more materials, both in print and electronic form. She also advocated for recruitment and fair remuneration of qualified library personnel. The scope of this study was, however, insufficient because it gathered its information from the library management records and did not focus on the library users.

These and many other studies have been carried out to evaluate service quality and user satisfaction levels of libraries across the globe. These studies have, however, been carried out in different technological and social-cultural contexts, and different evaluation methods have been adopted. Most of these studies have also yielded different and contradicting results. In this study, the researcher is interested in bridging this knowledge gap, by using the SERVQUAL model to determine the relationship between the two constructs from the users’ point of view. The study, therefore, seeks to answer the

following research question: Is there any relationship between service quality and library user satisfaction within Universities in Nigeria?

1.3: Research Objectives

The objectives of this study are:

i.            To determine library users levels of expectations and perceptions among universities in Nigeria;

ii.             To determine the levels of service quality in libraries among universities in Nigeria;

iii.             To examine whether there exists any relationship between service quality and library user satisfaction among universities in Nigeria.

1.4 :  Research Question

i.                    What is the level of library users expectations and perceptions among Nigeria university?

ii.                  What is the level of service quality in libraries among universities in Nigeria?

iii.                Is there a relationship between service quality and libraries user satisfaction among universities in nigeria  

1.4: Significance of the Study

This study is important in the following ways:

This study attempts to outline the gaps in service delivery which impede the attainment of desired service quality levels. Library managers could therefore make use of the proposed recommendations based on the identified service quality gaps.

Having taken only libraries within universities in Nigeria as the study unit for the research project, other institutions could make good use of the results by assessing their situations and customizing the recommendations of the study to suit their situations.

To the academia, the results, conclusions and recommendations from the study could be used by other researchers as a basis for further research in the area. The results could also help to bridge the knowledge gap in this field of study.

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