Quality management in academic libraries
As in other European countries, a new philosophy concerning public services has developed in Spain: a philosophy, which calls for greater quality and efficiency in the management and administration of public resources. Society as a whole now demands greater awareness of and satisfactory responses to its concerns regarding the use of public funds and the benefits deriving from the judicious investment thereof, in social terms. Public libraries are an integral part of these social benefits.
Keen interest is shown in all aspects concerning the introduction of new management techniques. Quality management, effectiveness and efficiency rating, cost control, service assessment, user content or stakeholder-oriented analysis is concepts, which emerge in academic library circles. In order to adapt to these new circumstances, universities are implementing new management procedures, and, for their part, university libraries have been forced to make fundamental changes in order to conduct their "business" in line with managerial criteria.
The current environment, dominated by the need to be competitive, is perceived by Spanish Universities as one of the biggest challenges to be met in the 21st Century, and leads these institutions to question their actions. What do we want? What is our goal? How are we going about it?
The shared nature of their activities and the relaxation of geographical boundaries fostered by information technology have encouraged libraries to join forces in order to remain relevant in the context of current library services. In my opinion, concepts such as the electronic library, the digital library, the virtual library, etc. produce a different configuration in the context of library services; as a result of their introduction, library managers have been forced to give serious thought to their strategically position, to where they best fit into this new configuration. Information items are to be broader, more heterogeneous and multidisciplinary. New organizational strategies need to be developed in order to offer services in a different way.
Quality is a relative concept, closely linked to the level of user expectation and requirements. The relative nature of quality leads ultimately to excellence, a mobile, unattainable concept, the achievement of which requires effort, the assimilation of change, and a forward-looking and positive approach.
Universities are faced with a new, technological-informational model1), which has spawned a new economic reality: globalization, whose effects are felt in every sphere of activity-social, political and cultural. In response, new organizational structures have been conceived, the purpose of which is not to do the same work more efficiently but to meet new challenges with innovative solutions. The systematic use of technology is a guarantee of greater efficiency and the implementation thereof has raised expectations enormously regarding increased productivity.
The salient feature of the University of Cadiz (UCA), and the one which has not only determined the course of its development but will also strongly influence its future, is its geographical dispersion. Distributed over 5 campuses, as illustrated on the map above, it caters for
To a certain extent, this situation has been palliated by the development of a powerful communications structure, one of the strong points of the University of Cadiz, and, from the point of view of the Library System, this has permitted the introduction of specific strategies, as we will see below, to develop services designed for the end user which manage to overcome the barrier of dispersion and distance between the various campuses2) (see map).
In this context, the library resources may be summarized as follows:
|DB-CD-ROM||76 databases accessible via the UCA network|
|DB TOC's||330,400 serials articles´s references (20% Spanish titles with Full Text)|
Change and integration are the two key strategies which have characterized the management of the UCA Library System over recent years, and I have no doubt that this will continue to be the case in the years to come. There is a permanent need for change, and integration, in any of its 3 guises (Innovation, Organization and Technology), is inherent in any attempt at modernization of the System.
Technological advancement has placed within our reach a whole range of possibilities and opportunities to develop services and to introduce new and improved processes which permit direct and personal interaction with the user and allow the latter access to local, regional and other informational resources. On the other hand, the introduction of these innovations implies and requires a constant and continual updating of management and planning systems.
In this respect, the UCA Library System has met the challenge of changing circumstances and has conceived an innovative new approach to its understanding of the mission, the vision and the objectives of the library as a subsystem of the first order in the overall University System. This approach recognizes the supreme importance of information technology as the basic and essential means by which to develop innovative management processes to foster organizational changes which, in turn, serve to optimize the three fundamental requirements of the Library System: efficacy, economy and efficiency. As a consequence, an overall context of progress and improvement is generated: organizational changes make appropriate updating of the information technology necessary and, as an offspin, further innovative processes evolve which then produce yet more organizational changes, and so on.
The juxtaposition of technology/change promotes a dynamic environment in which any service rapidly becomes obsolete, but in which the capacity to innovate is also much greater. The world of information has a new, distinguishing variable: the constant ability to innovate in response to change, of whatever kind.
As explained in our contribution to the seminar last year in Lopuszna,3) the objective of the quality management system of the University of Cadiz is to create a user-oriented library. The approach centers on 4 specific variables:
But the combination of organizational changes and the use of information technology to develop new processes are, of themselves, insufficient-if not reinforced by strong leadership of the library management team and a change in outlook by the library staff-to successfully implement all the services and products on offer to the user.
Consequently, a series of strategies have been identified, with the user uppermost in mind. These may be summarised as follows:
Process management-the "natural way to organize work"5) - is an approach that dovetails perfectly with TQM management philosophy. According to process management theory, the functional division is only one of the elements adding value to the process and the organizational orientation is geared to focus on results (not tasks or activities); in addition, it allows the introduction of organizational structures which are at once flexible, dynamic, open and multidisciplinary and the identification of structural changes which may be necessary to meet the needs of the user.
Exhaustive and detailed analysis of library activity flows enables us to rate internal processes in terms of competitiveness (i.e. to pinpoint those processes associated with the critical factors providing a competitive advantage), to determine value (i.e. the quality, cost and time required for implementation and to contrast this with the added value perceived by the user) and overall productivity.
Process management requires fundamental changes in the way staff approach their work:6)
How do we identify opportunities to provide added value to the services offered by university libraries? What are the strong and weak points of the libraries in this respect? Is the library mission statement expressed in terms which underline the value of the services to the university community? Process management and the evaluation thereof assist in pinpointing areas of added value for users.
The evaluation of library services is traditionally understood to mean the measurement of the levels of use; by contrast, an analysis of the way in which a service benefits the user or an identification of the elements, which make that service important to the user, is uncommon. Undoubtedly, the perception of value differs from one user to another, and will depend on the type of service/product, its relevance and more or less immediate applicability... but it is possible to identify and establish certain determinant attributes: response time, cost, accuracy, relevance, pertinence...
Similarly, added value may be achieved in terms of internal efficacy and economics by applying innovative processes to activities that require a high level of resources or which, in their traditional format, are inefficient.
It is more than likely that the tendency over the past few years to undervalue technical services - acquisitions, cataloguing, indexation ..., is due to the fact that these activities demand a disproportionate amount of resources in comparison with results and because, for their part, users perceive little added value in the product they receive. There is no question that henceforth; all library activities, which do not generate added value for the user, will be brought into question.
In the short to medium term, one of the priorities of the Spanish University Library will be to demonstrate the contribution of the service, the added value it provides, in the support of the teaching and research functions of the University and, in addition, to demonstrate the impact which its policies have on faculty results, both in terms of teaching and research.7)
The innovatory management of knowledge is a basic element in the generation of value. It must not be forgotten, however, that innovation is fundamentally the result of management and organizational changes, since innovations are produced in organizations which transform knowledge. The relationship between the nature, structure and value of an organization and the innovations it produces is a key area on which to dwell in the design and planning of operational development policies.8) In other words, innovation is a process which affects and is affected by all facets of the organization.
No standard model for innovation exists, but it would appear to relate to organizations which have passed through the stage of data management and are now concerned with the management and transformation of knowledge, converting it into added value.
In organizations keen to create open organizational structures, the combined use of information technology and reengineering is contributing to the development of a basic model for process innovation. The reversal of top-heavy management organizations (in favor of horizontal, flat structures), the application of information technology and reengineering are the corner stones of this model.
In the library context, this process is clearly visible in the area of Technical Services. The Library of the University of Cadiz, for instance, is presently concluding a project to redesign technical services, the aim of which is to combine technology with reengineering, with a view to significantly increasing the competitive advantage of the UCA library system in terms of improved quality and customer care. The redesign process anticipates 17 policy changes in cataloguing practice and 6 in the acquisitions system.9)
In accordance with the TQM philosophy, applied to all areas of activity undertaken by the library, of commitment to continuous improvement as a suitable means by which to reduce costs and increase productivity10) - the fifth element is the evaluation of results and the measurement of performance.
From the point of view of performance rating, TQM is the management technique which permits managers "to understand, accept, satisfy and exceed the needs and expectations of the user"11) in accordance with the value which he has received and perceived. The only relevant issue for the user is the added value provided to him by the product or service.
To understand means to work with the user through transfunctional teams which enable the library to fully understand the user's needs and to anticipate them.
To accept means to personalize the TQM process by accommodating suggestions for improvement which derive from feedback provided by the user in response to 3 key questions:
To satisfy means to know what the user thinks he is going to receive (expectations) and what he thinks he gets (perceptions).
To exceed both user expectations and perceptions depends on the approach taken to the TQM philosophy: the traditional approach - to comply with specifications - or the approach taken by modern organizations, to meet expectations. The difference lies in emphasis, on the one hand, on the activities themselves, and on the other, on the underlying processes.
The analysis of these variables from the perspective of the user allows us to identify the shortcomings and limitations of the Library Quality System and to formulate the appropriate strategies for the evaluation of the system. Following the introduction of the University of Cadiz Library Services Total Quality Management System, the way ahead now lies in the pursuit of excellence via the certification and evaluation of the system.
Following the guidelines proposed by The Effective Academic Library12), a consultative report to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) carried out in accordance with the recommendations of the Follet Report13) , the library of the University of Cadiz has developed a performance evaluation model as a complementary element to the introduction of a Quality Management System.
The model is composed of 7 areas and has a total of 68 indicators, the purpose of which is to evaluate the performance of the University Library and to identify the global effectiveness of the library system. The following tables illustrate the evolution of some of these indicators over the years 1995-1999.
Since the year 2000, we have been involved in a global University project, working as part of a multidisciplinary group to transform the performance evaluation model into a fully-fledged Balanced Scorecard.14) We are of the opinion, in line with the current trend of forward-looking institutions, that it is no longer possible to orchestrate an organizational reorientation based on a simple list of indicators: we feel that it is necessary to go one step further, and to introduce a BSC.
The BSC15) represents a multidimensional evaluation model capable of rating the activity of an organization and of evenly balancing the financial and non-financial aspects in the strategic management thereof.
The four components of the Balanced Scorecard which, taken as a whole, constitute the mission statement of the organization, are as follows:
In the case of all four components, a specific definition of each of the following will be required: procedural strategy; means to implement the strategy; planned objectives; and indicators to reveal the level of achievement.
Consequently, there exists a degree of interrelationship between all the components which, for example, may mean that the development of an innovation, training and background strategy is of use in defining the procedural strategy for the development of internal processes. The degree of success obtained in achieving the planned objectives may, in turn, be evaluated from the external perspective, in terms of customer results, and finally, in financial terms, these same results will serve to indicate the level of improvement in performance.
From the point of view of staff training, the aim is to develop strategic abilities, access strategic information and align personal and organizational objectives, in the effort to increase overall staff productivity. The increase in productivity achieved permits a subsequent improvement in internal processes through the development of new products and services, reducing problems to the minimum, providing appropriate responses, etc.
From the point of view of the customer, these improvements in processes help foster a greater feeling of confidence in the organization, and increase his sense of satisfaction, all of which translates into improved operational efficiency and income. Ultimately, therefore, the approach has been able to engineer an improvement in financial performance.
Quality systems have to be evaluated. Whilst, on the one hand, undertaking to convert the table of performance indicators into a Balanced Scorecard, the Library System of the University of Cadiz has, at the same time, set up an evaluation programme based on EFQM excellence methodology to analyse the system and assess its degree of compliance with the European norm ISO 9000. According to ISO 9000 quality system requirements, the library needs:
For its part, the EFQM model is a non-prescriptive framework which indicates the approximation to excellence achieved in all aspects of the library system, based on the analysis of 9 criteria which take into account all the areas of library activity and all the various stakeholders.
The modifications introduced in the updated version of the standard, ISO 9000:2000, make clear that the requirements set out in the norm are complementary, and not alternative to the technical requirements of the product or service, and, in addition, confirm that quality systems should be adjusted to comply with the specific objectives and needs of each organization, or the needs of its customers and the type of products or services it supplies.
The updated version introduces a greater level of flexibility (lacking in the 1994 version) which makes it perfectly adaptable to organizations offering services such as those provided by libraries, and aligns it with the management approaches of excellence models such as EFQM: customer satisfaction and continuous improvement.
This approach would be entirely consistent with the proposals for "integrated evaluation models" which combine the three theories currently in use: BSC, stakeholders and the EFQM excellence model, as shown in the following illustration:
The following table shows the interrelationship existing between the different excellence methodologies:
Consequently, the integration of these elements combine to form the total quality system of the Library of the University of Cadiz, which system is both excellence-oriented and permits appropriate planning of resources, not only with regards to the maintenance of a certain level of quality, but also in terms of achieving planned and systematic improvement, and this, in turn, helps to raise the expectations of our users.
EBIB: Conference Proceedings, no. 1