The relationship between expectations and the public's perceptions of public library services
A follow-up study to the 1995 ASLm Public Libraries Review was conducted. Forty telephone interviews with frequent public library users and 6 focus groups with professional and paraprofessional library staff were carried out across three of the original nine ASLm participant public library authorities. This two-stage data collection strategy was designed drawing on previous research ranging from services marketing to psychology. Focusing particularly on a finding from the ASLIB research, which identified a mismatch in future expectations of the service between library users and professional library staff, the research examines the relationship between user expectations and perceptions of the public library service. The emphasis is placed not on what expectations and perceptions of the library service are, but rather how they are formed, what influences them and how they interact. The research found that the library experience impacts significantly on the perceptions and expectations that are created of the service. The "snapshot" that a user forms during the service experience is crucial to the perception created and the subsequent expectation held. Similarly, internal and external factors ranging from family influence to the media, impact upon the way an individual experiences the library. The personal nature of the library experience and the relationship formed with library staff was identified as influencing user perceptions of the service, with library staff having the potential to create and inform user service expectations. Confusion among library users and library staff in terms of their service perceptions and expectations was also noted with evidence to suggest that this was compounded by societal and technological changes.