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Library Philosophy and Practice Vol. 5, No. 2 (Spring 2003)

ISSN 1522-0222

Total Quality Management in the Academic Library

S. Siraj Nissa Begum

Dept. of Library & Information Science,
Madurai Kamaraj University,

"The function of a harp player is to play the harp.The function of good harp player is to play it well." - Aristotle

What is quality?Each one gives his or her own definition, but one meaning of quality is customer satisfaction through product or by service. The customer in the academic library is the user/reader/student. Here the customer is not an outsider, but part of the academic community.

As a response of this challenge of quality, India's University Grants Commission (UGC) has set upNAAC(National Accreditation and Assessment Council). NAAC conducts audits and inspections on the quality of service provided by educational institutions, including library service. Grants are linked to the outcomes of these assessments. In light of this, academic libraries must develop systems, philosophies, and strategies for managing quality.

The primary purpose of an academic library is to support the teaching, research, and other academic programs of its parent organization. An academic library is part of a service organization which delivers products personally to the customer.

In a manufacturing concern, the customer is remote, where as in service organization like an academic library, producers and consumer meet face to face. The complexity of managing service organizations is typically compounded by the existence of multiple interfaces.

Managing Quality in an Academic Library

In a service organization like an academic library, customer satisfaction means fulfilling expectations. Librarians must find out what readers want and concentrate upon providing it. Designing an appropriate service means asking

  • Who are the customers?
  • What do they want?
  • What can the organization provide?

In a library there are basically two types of customer: those who are in a hurry and those who want to kill time. An academic library has to identify these and serve them accordingly.

Managing Customer Expectations

The expectations that the customers bring to a library have a critical effect upon their perceptions of quality. It is better to acquire a reputation for one or two factors which are important to customers and to concentrate upon developing those.

Service delivery is like a theoretical performance. If customers are to gain maximum benefit from a service, they must know how to use it. So, properly planned user education is a must for an academic library.

Support systems should reflect customer's priorities. It is important to find out which service can be automated without losing the personal touch.

Getting feedback from the user is important to ascertain the quality of service. Regular users of an academic library can be given a questionnaire to get feedback from them for improving service.

The circulation desk staff are the front line staff who play a critical role is an academic library because they represent the library; first deal with inquiries/crises; manage the reader interface. Public services staff must be carefully-appointed and be given periodic training to keep up-to-date.

All academic library staff must receive training, including skill training; on the job guidance; retraining. Well-trained staff are the competitive weapon for better quality service in an academic library. Teamwork plays a vital role in giving better quality service. People have to develop a culture and commitment towards quality service in an academic library.

ISO 9000 Series Steps Towards TQM In Academic Library

ISO 9000 has an internationally accepted certificate that accredits an organization for its quality management systems and procedures.ISO 9004-2:1992 has guidelines for services and was issued by ISO to establish and implement a quality system within a service organization such as an educational institution.


Arys, Ramachandrasri (2000) "Customer Delight in University Environment."  University News.Apr. 17.

Drummond, Helga. (1993)The Quality Movement : What Total Quality Management Is Really About!  London : Kogan Page.

Harigauntam, D. (2000) " Quality Assurance in Higher Education."University News. Jan.24.

Maharan, Balu, Koe Parda (2000)  "Revitalizing Academic Libraries."   University News. Nov.

Mukhopadlyay, Mamar. (2000) "Management and Quality in Higher Education." University News.  July.

Oakland, John S., Peter Morris. (1997)TQM : a Pictorial Guide for Managers.Oxford : Butterworth-Heinemann. 

Powar, K. B. (2000) "Quality Assurance in Higher Education." University News. Sept.

Singh, Sewa. "Library and Information Science: Growth and Trends." University News. Feb. 7.

Stella, Antony. (2000) "Best Practices:  Bench Making for Quality Assessment." University News.  Nov. 

Trchan, Para (2000) "Implementation of ISO 9000 in Industrial Libraries: a Case Study." University News. June.

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