Alao, Folorunso, and Saka, Part 2
The term "availability study" is often used interchangeably with such terms as satisfaction study, frustration study, failure study and shelf availability study. These terms, according to Nisonger (1992), are about whether or not a library user can find a book on the shelf when needed. They are also closely related to the concept of performance measurement, the purpose of which is to determine how well a library is faring.
Performance measurement dates back to the 1930s (Ciliberti, 1987)while the first available study dates back to 1934 (Mansbridge, 1986). Since the Mansbridge study, a number of approaches to availability studies have been developed, one of which is the Kantor (1976) branching technique, or Kantor model.
Kantor succinctly explained his branching technique in a 1976 article using the data collected at Case Western Reserve University in 1972 and 1976. He and Saracevic (1977) later wrote a paper devoted to the application of the technique to various published availability studies dating back to 1957. In concluding the articles, however, Kantor emphasized the need to use availability studies judiciously, saying that if library procedures are reducing the availability rate, "management analysis of policies rather than statistical analysis is required."
In their textbook, Baker and Lancaster (1991) succinctly describe Kantor's branching technique. This description is followed by sections devoted to the conduct of citation-based and patron-based availability studies. Next is the analysis of studies reported from 1976 to 1984, with the search failures in most cases being attributed to acquisition, circulation and library patron errors. The chapter concludes with a distinction between the two types of traditional availability studies, namely analysis by type of user and availability over time.
Using the Kantor model, Bachmann-Derthick and Spurlock (1989) investigated the availability of journals in the University of New Mexico Library in 1986. The study was based on patrons' actual searches for 483 journals with the results indicating: (1) an overall success rate of 56 percent; (2) 58.2 percent of the items sought were owned by the library; and, (3) a circulation performance of 96.7, which the researchers considered higher than the reported results in most previous book availability studies.
In another development, Broadbent (1984) conducted "a user and stock failure" survey at the State Library of Victoria in April and May 1983. The success rate for the 2,821 books sought by patrons was 80.9 percent while the stock failure rate stood at 13.6 percent. The latter consisted of books not owned by the library, books held in limited copies and misplaced books. Of the 721 subject searches recorded, 79.9 percent were successful. The majority of the subject search failures was due to cataloguing problems, followed by cases of insufficient library copies and irrelevant items.
In 1984, Ferl and Robinson (1986) carried out a book availability study at the University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz in November 1984 using the researcher-designed forms for data collection and Kantor's branching technique for analysis. Of the 480 items sought by patrons, 61.3 percent were found while 38.7 percent could not be located. The reasons for the 23 search failures are given in one of the tables in the article reporting the study.
Following the installation of an automated system at the University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz, Frohmberg, et al. (1980) carried out six availability studies over a two-year period (1978-1979 and 1979-1980), the purposes of which were to assess the impact of automation on the availability of materials in the library. Each of the studies was two-fold: an objective availability study based on actual users' searches for the library's materials, and a perceived availability study based on the users' responses to a questionnaire about their views on the availability of materials in the library. The results of the studies showed that the automated system had increased the availability of materials in the library generally. There were, however, striking differences in the results of the objective availability analysis and those of the perceived availability analysis, leading to the conclusion that it is easier to change performance than patrons' attitudes.
More importantly, Wulff (1978), using the Kantor model, conducted an analysis of the availability of the book collection in the University of Minnesota Bio-Medical Library. Of the 388 books sought by patrons during the study, 245 (63 percent) were found while 143 (37 percent) were not found. There were four categories of reasons for the search failures recorded in the study, each of which represented a performance measure that could account for a search failure. The calculated values of the four performance measures for the library were; acquisition performance, 94 percent; circulation performance, 90 percent; library operations performance, 86 percent; and, library user performance, 88 percent, "By carrying out an availability study from time to time," he concluded, "a library can with an improved objectivity evaluate that portion of its services that is reflected in the immediate availability of its book collection."
The present study was an attempt made by the writers to evaluate the Nigerian College of Health Sciences Library in terms of the availability of its book collection using the Kantor model.