User satisfaction

Satisfaction with knowledge and library services (KLS) usually relates to the quality of service provision

Satisfaction measurements can help assess whether the library meets required service standards, or whether the KLS provision meets the expectations that users have for the library.

However, satisfaction cannot tell you whether your services make a difference or how the information or services you have provided are used. For this you need to measure impact.   

There are a range of ideas below from simple measures of satisfaction to more complex questionnaires or approaches.    

Simple questions could be added to a wider impact survey, such as  

  • “Were you satisfied with the service you received?”  

  • “Was the information relevant to your needs?”  

  • “Was the information provided in a timely manner?”  

Measuring satisfaction in the NHS  

The NHS emphasis is on measuring patient satisfaction.  National Programmes collect data to measure the quality of the patient experience with NHS services with the Friends and Family Test widely used as a simple measure to determine whether patients have been satisfied with their inpatient care.    

Answers are ranked from “extremely likely” to “extremely unlikely” and participants have an opportunity to explain rankings by adding comments.   

The question could be easily adapted for use by health libraries.  It would provide simple data in line with that collected across the organisation.  For example  

“How likely are you to recommend our knowledge and library service to colleagues if they needed similar information or resources?”  

This feedback could be used to improve the quality of KLSs to users. 

User Satisfaction Tools

No service is perfect.  To improve, users need to tell us about any “niggles” and annoying experiences so that these can be tackled.

See the questionnaire and guidance in the documents section.

The survey uses a similar methodology to the Generic Impact Survey.  Encourage use of the survey for key instances of use of the Library and Knowledge Service, for example literature searches.  This encourages clarity and focus.

Hively software (other software providing similar functionality is available) provides instant feedback from users through an addition to the e-mail footer.  Learning from this work is also provided.

User Satisfaction Group
Karen Wight, Tracy Owen, Lucy Gilham, Paula Elliott, Gil Earl, Dominic Gilroy, Clare Edwards

Measuring satisfaction in academic institutions and academic libraries  

National Student Survey  

In the UK the National Student Survey (NSS) is a widely used, authoritative and national survey 

It is run annually and provides information on the satisfaction of final year undergraduates with all aspects of their University courses 

Answers are ranked on a 5 point scale from “definitely agree to definitely disagree”  

Libraries at higher education institutions use the responses from the questionnaire to help with planning


Libqual is a validated standardised survey widely used in academic libraries to measure satisfaction 

It also asks what users expect from the library service 

In the UK, it is run by Sconul so that participating libraries can benchmark their performance against other university libraries 

The survey comprises 22 items and 5 additional items can be added relevant to the local library 

There is a considerable amount of guidance available to help administer the survey and analyse the results 

Customer Value Discovery  

Allows libraries to find out what students like and dislike about services 

The process enables libraries to determine what users view as the ideal service and identify any existing practices that are irritants 

It also helps library staff see how they are performing from a user’s perspective 

The process was used in Nottingham Trent Library. It involved a series of workshops with both library staff and undergraduate users 

The process is described in a talk by Sue McKnight in 2012 and McKnight and Berrington, 2008  

Changes were evaluated in subsequent years using NSS data.  


Page last reviewed: 15 June 2021