Information Research, Vol. 1 No. 3, March 1996

Total Quality Management, British Standard accreditation, Investors In People and academic libraries

V. Mistry and Bob Usherwood
Department of Information Studies
University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK


Organisations, be they public or private, have been touched by a rhetoric which promises a new order of things; quality management systems (QMS) like Total Quality Management (TQM) and BS EN ISO 9000 (formerly BS 5750 and hereafter referred to as ISO 9000) are imbued with this rhetoric. There has been much in the library and information services (LIS) literature on the merits or otherwise of such systems; for quality is accepted generally, or as Chase (1988) declares, "quality is no longer an option - it is a positive requirement for the 1990s." However, there is much conjecture over the means to this end. With regard to academic LIS, the debate has rubbed shoulders with the, separate, quality debate in higher education over quality assessment. Thus, are initiatives in the academic LIS influenced by their parent organisation? Alternatively, are academic LIS more likely to adopt QMS in the light of the Follett (1993) report, which called for a more integrated view of customer service and quality amidst the rapid change in universities and technology?

This paper was produced after a 'ground-clearing' exercise which began in March/April 1995 and formed the first phase of a PhD. The PhD will examine the impact of QMS, particularly with regards to motivation, on front line staff in academic LIS. It is hoped that a series of 'organisational health checks' and case studies will be generated in approximately a dozen academic LIS. Prior to this time the only survey which examined the popularity of QMS in the LIS context was Lydia Porter's (1992), but that did not exclusively concentrate on academic LIS. The paper is a 'snap-shot' of the situation at present. It aims to identify what type of academic LIS have QMS, whether they are 'new' or 'traditional' or 'large' or 'small', establish whether the initiatives are part of a university-wide initiative and seek to identify any future trends. The paper will concentrate on three systems; TQM, ISO 9000 and Investors in People (IiP).

Data Collection

Scope of the study

Only 'university' libraries were considered. A listing of the libraries was obtained from The World of Learning 1994 (the 44th edition) and the LA Directory 1995. All the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge were approached as were most of the institutions that make up the University of Wales and the University of London. In total 197 academic libraries were approached. In the final analysis an aggregate of the Oxford and Cambridge figures was produced. With regard to London the larger institutions were treated as separate 'universities' and similarly an aggregate of the small London institutions was produced. The colleges that make up the University of Wales were treated as separate 'universities'. Thus, in total, 100 'universities' were approached.


A closed questionnaire, loosely based on Porter's (1993) questionnnaire was sent out in March 1995 and respondents were given approximately ten days to a fortnight to reply. The questionnaire asked the Chief Librarians: to identify which systems had been installed, e.g.,TQM, BS EN ISO 9000 etc.; to state when the systems had been introduced; to indicate whether they were initiated within the library only or were part of a university-wide initiative; and whether the library was likely to adopt a QMS in the future and if so which one.


Stratifying the data enhances the understanding of a study. In examining UK universities it is clear that a number of options for sampling are available. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (1994) identified universities by 'sector' based on chronology as follows:

This kind of stratification makes us consider whether we assume the traditional universities are less likely to embrace new managerialism than their more contemporary counterparts.

The other option is to stratify by size based on student numbers. In her study of QMS and special libraries, Webb (1995) noted that the larger organisations were more likely to implement QMS. Similarly, other studies have shown that the smaller organisations, bases on turnover, are unlikely to implement systems like ISO 9000 Binder Hamlyn Fry (1994). The details of student numbers were obtained from an HEFCE publication and from The World of Learning 1994.

The sample

The questionnaire provoked strong interest with 134 of the 197 academic libraries approached responding. This represents a response rate of 68%. A total of 72 questionnaires were returned from 100 'universities' (72%). The response rate by sector was: Old Foundations 83%; Victorian Expansion 75%; London-based 86%; Green-field 38%; Upgraded Colleges 80%; Miscellaneous 75%; Post-1992 71%.

The resulting sample (n=72) comprises 45 pre-1992 university libraries (62%) and 27 post- 1992 university libraries (38%). The average size of university that returned questionnaires was 10,559 part-time and full-time students. The following categories were constructed:

Of the sample, 11 belong to small universities (15%), 25 to medium/small universities (35%), 25 to medium/large universities (35%) and 11 to large universities.

ISO 9000

ISO 9000 is a standard for quality assurance. To obtain the Standard: procedures have to be established and then documented; staff trained to follow the procedures; the service measured using performance indicators and evaluated against predetermined standards; and the firm audited by a recognised external body. Upon successful assessment a firm can display the British Standard logo which demonstrates to the customer that the organisation is committed to quality. The benefits claimed for ISO 9000 include 'Increased efficiency, improved consistency, better-motivated employees, cost savings, fewer mistakes, less rework, less waste, wider market opportunities, increased customer satisfaction, increased competitiveness, increased profits, better use of time and resources and improved communications' BSI Quality Assurance. (n.d.).

Only two university libraries reported having ISO 9000. Of the overall total, barely 3% have British Standard accreditation. Of these libraries, one had ISO 9000 and TQM, and the other just BS EN ISO 9000. As noted by Ellis and Norton (1993) it is possible for an organisation to gain ISO 9000 en route to TQM or vice versa.

In one of the libraries, the British Standard initiative was a library-led initiative; in the other, a university-led initiative. The results concurred with Webb's (1995) study, in that the initiative has not been taken up by the smaller organisations, as one library was based in a large university and the other in a medium/large university. The Standard attracted criticism. One library (pre-1992) had examined the system but did not like the jargon associated with it and another (also pre-1992) did not feel that accreditation offered the library an ideal framework on which to develop. Although both of the libraries with ISO 9000 are in the post-1992 category, thus ensuring that a larger proportion of LIS in this sector have ISO 9000 (7%), the data suggests that ISO 9000 has run out of steam and its influence has been nugatory, for no respondent indicated a desire to seek British Standard accreditation in the future.

The failure of ISO 9000 to make any inroad in the academic sector could be due to one or more of the followng reasons. First, the language of production and manufacturing does not translate very well in service activities, despite some valiant efforts (see Ellis & Norton, 1993). As noted previously, the jargon can be baffling and off-putting. Second, there is the question of cost. British Standards Institute suggest that an organisation with ten staff will pay on average 4,090 for the application fee, initial assessment, licence and consultancy (Mendelsohn, 1995). Third, some reports and articles have cast doubt over the usefulness of ISO 9000, for instance, Pengally (1993) cites an Economist Intelligence Unit Report that warned of a possible reduction in competitive strength for British Standard holders and a similar conclusion was reached by Vanguard Consulting (Seddon, 1994). At times the criticism has been almost vitriolic, for example The Economist (1995) condemned ISO 9000 as, "little more than a documentation flow system which leads to time, human energy and physical resources being squandered on the management of form-filling rather than real improvements.".

Total Quality Management

TQM is a management philosophy devised by an American (W. Edwards Deming) but first embraced by the Japanese. It is a philosophy that focuses relentlessly on the needs of the customer, both internal and external, realigns the organisation from detection to prevention and aims to improve continuously via the use of statistical monitoring (Brockman, 1992).

A total of eight academic LIS have TQM in place, of which one has both TQM and ISO 9000. Thus from the sample (n=72) 11% have either TQM or TQM and ISO 9000; The results indicate a steady interest in TQM, but the growth is not as great as might be expected, especially in the light of the interest generated in the United States [15-21] plus the added bonus of a government sponsored TQM 'prize' on the lines of the Malcolm Baldrige award (The Times, 1994; Brockman, 1993). The graph below highlights the steady growth of TQM (only one respondent failed to identify when the initiative had been introduced):

In contrast to Investors in People (see below), the TQM approach tends to be a library-led, rather than a university-led, initiative, as six of the eight respondents (75%) indicated that it had been initiated and installed in the library only. With regard to the type of LIS more likely to adopt the TQM approach, it appears that the post-1992 LIS are more inclined towards the system: of the total with TQM (n=8) five are in this category (63%). In other words, of the total post-1992 LIS (n=27) 19% have TQM. If we consider the size of LIs, then 18% of the LIS belonging to small universities (n=11), 8% of the LIS belonging to medium/small universities (n=25), 12% of the LIS belonging to medium/large universities and 9% of the LIS belonging to large universities (n=11) have TQM.

The less-than-startling rise of TQM in academic LIS may be a result of the feeling that it is a fad. Brockman (1992) and Jurow (1993) have noted that this may be felt by some LIS managers but they believe that the lessons learnt today from such systems will bode well for the future. The 'faddish' feeling of TQM is problematic for the manager, for such formalised systems can be costly to install and be even more expensive if they go 'out of vogue'. Byrne (1986: 40) notes that:

Today, the bewildering array of fads pose more serious diversions and distractions from the complex task of running a company. Too many modern managers are like compulsive dieters, trying the latest craze for a few days, then moving relentlessly on.

Huczynski (1993) concurs and suggests that managerial needs are rarely satisfied for the nature of organisational life in present capitalist economies ensures that the cycle of management fads will continue. A recent survey by The Economist (1995) would suggest that the recession and subsequent downsizing in many american firms has made it very difficult to sell the TQM message hence the reduction of applications for the Malcolm Baldrige awards. In reply to this survey one of the TQM gurus, Philip Crosby (1995) asserted that 'T(Total )QM is an illusion that will pass, like other management fads'; but quality management itself was not dead.

Investors in People

IiP is a national quality standard developed by the former Department of Employment in 1991. It is based upon four key tenets: first, that there is a public commitment from senior management to train all employees in order to achieve the organisation's business objectives; second, implementation of regular reviews of the training and development needs of all employees; third, commitment to train and develop employees while employed; and finally there must be procedures for the evaluation of the investment made in training to assess achievement and future effectiveness (Caulkin, 1995; Cheeseman & Tate, 1993; Investors in People, 1994). Assessment is made by the local Training and Enterprise Council (TEC) or Investors in People UK who also sponsor and market the award - if an organisation passes the assessment they are entitled to display the IiP logo. As its name implies the emphasis is on human resource management (HRM) and the underlying philosophy is that the development of people should be at the heart of any management strategy (Caulkin, 1995).

The survey revealed that Investors in People could be present in up to 25 academic LIS, making it the most popular QMS. A breakdown of the results indicate that ten have already installed IiP (14%), nine other respondents indicated that IiP was "in progress" or "in the process of being introduced"(13%), and and six others reported that the system was "under investigation."(8%). Also noticeable was the fact that IiP tends to be a university-led, rather than library-led, initiative. For instance, of those that stated that IiP was already in place (n=10), nine indicated that this was a university-led initiative (90%) and one did not indicate whether it was a university or library-led initiative. Of those that indicated that IiP was "in progress" or "in the process of being introduced" (n=9), seven stated that this was a university-led initiative (78%) and two failed to indicate whether this was to be initiated by the university or library. Finally, all (100%) of the remaining six respondents who identified IiP as being "under investigation" stated that it was part of a university-led initiative.

Of the ten respondents who identified IiP as being in place, only six stated when it had been installed. Assuming the nine respondents who claimed IiP was "in progress" install the system during the present academic year (1995/96), we could be witnessing a period which marks the exponential growth of IiP.

What accounts for the interest in IiP? It should be noted that firms with IiP, as noted by Rix et al. (1994), do not see it as an instant panacea. Nevertheless Cheeseman & Tate (1993) suggest five benefits. First, IiP provides a framework for reviewing HRM strategy and development priorities which is agreeable to labour intensive organisations like universities whose main expenditure is on staff. Mackay proffers the view that enthusiasm for IiP in universities symbolises a willingness of such organisations to re-evaluate training and development because they are aware of the costs of not taking a longer term view of their staff (Mackay, 1995). Second, IiP can bring coherence to existing processes which may have evolved independently from other initiatives. Third, it can prove to be a catalyst for changing existing management structures. Fourth, IiP can act as a counterbalance to, what Cheeseman and Tate consider, is an inevitable focus on budgetary controls and financial management. Finally, and most obviously, IiP can bring credibility to an organisation and national recognition in terms of HRM. These benefits have been clarified by Spilsbury, et al., (1995) who generally concur with Cheeseman and Tate's interpretation of IiP. In addition to the above, IiP is perhaps palatable to the service industry. As noted previously, systems associated with manufacturing and production are not easily transferable to the service industry; a QMS which addresses and focuses on the way people behave, as IiP purports to do, may be more readily acceptable to labour-intensive organisations like universities.


In the university sector there is a stark realisation that poor quality causes waste through rework and that distinction in the market place must be attained to boost one's profile or arrest any possible decline. Duke (1992) affirms that universities operate in an "unstable and confusing environment" which has seen the loss of the sedate style of traditional university management (see also [36]). Although the term is loathed, universities and academic LIS cater for customers (students) (see Butcher (1993) on the resistance felt by some as the focus of the library's attention shifted from 'the collection' to 'the customer') and such customers demand quality. For instance, in a recent case, two students withheld their fees to a university because they were unhappy about the changes made to their course (Bulpitt, 1995; Wojtas, 1995). Students, or the public in general, are more aware of quality since it has become a high profile issue in domestic politics (Prime Minister, 1991; Labour Party, 1991). LIS are therefore compelled to be more accountable.

In addition to TQM, ISO 9000 and IiP, a large portion of the respondents had other QMS+ like Quality Assurance, Quality Improvement, Customer Care or Continuous Quality Improvement (n=26)*. Thus, in total, 45 academic LIS (62.5%) have QMS at present and 27 (37.5%) do not.

The questionnaire that went out to the various LIS also asked the Chief Librarians to disclose whether they had installed various processes in their library (e.g., service level agreements, customer charters, performance measures, customer feedback mechanisms and service audits). A few LIS stated that the above processes had been installed and may have come to a post hoc rationalisation that they had Quality Assurance, for example. Other LIS also stated that the processes had been installed but denied that they had a QMS. There is therefore a problem of definition associated with quality management. A subsequent paper, which will be produced in due course, will attempt to analyse quality management with regard to the particular processes in LIS.


How to cite this paper:

Mistry, V. and Usherwood, R.C. (2000)   "Total Quality Management, British Standard accreditation, Investors In People and academic libraries".  Information Research, 1(3) Available at:

© the authors, 1996.

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