This needs assessment was undertaken to explore whether a gap between the actual and required English language performance of AUC Library support staff (LSS) existed. The study sought to answer the following questions: 1) How do the LSS view their own English language performance level? 2) What are the expectations of the English-speaking library patrons regarding the current English language performance of the LSS? and 3) What are the English language skills and sub-skills that need improvement as viewed by both the English­speaking Library users and the LSS? Subjects included the following groups: Library patrons (n= 69), LSS (n=58), and four Library English native speaking directors. The instruments consisted of a patron questionnaire in English and an LSS questionnaire in Arabic, and Library directors' interview guide. The questionnaires examined patrons and LSS biographical backgrounds, LSS English language instruction before and after employment, and the perceptions of the two groups regarding the English language needs of the LSS. The directors' interview guide explored the LSS English language abilities and needs, and the importance of the English language in job performance of LSS. The researcher administered the three instruments in person. Analysis of the questionnaires included computing frequencies and percentages on biographical and English language data. t-tests and the non­parametric Wilcoxon-Rank Sum-Mann/Whitney U test were used to analyze patrons and LSS mean differences. The analysis then cross-examined the questionnaires and Library directors' interview data. The study findings were as follows: I) LSS biographical profile results: the LSS group which was surveyed (n=58) were evenly distributed between males and females (50% for each group). The age mean was 35.26, (Median=35.0). LSS distribution among different Library departments varied, with the two largest departments regarding employee numbers being Serials and Cataloging. More than one half of the LSS group were full-timers, the rest being part-timers, and the majority were university graduates. Only a few pursued post graduate studies. Although the majority of LSS had prior instruction in English, more than half never had any English language instruction since being hired in the Library. More than half the respondents who did not enroll in English courses were part-timers, who had no staff scholarship privileges. However, some felt they had no problem in dealing with patrons using English. The vast majority of the LSS group (69%) felt a need for a Library-oriented English language course. 2) Patron biographical profile results: of the 69 Library patrons surveyed, 41 were females and 28 were males of different ages ranging between 17 and 67 years, with 52.0% of the patrons ranging between 17-26 years of age (Mean =29.72, Median =24.00). The majority were English native speakers (47.8%), while the percentage for speakers of Arabic was 31.8%, percentage for bilinguals was 5.7%, other language groups included French, German, Japanese, Polish, Slovenian, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu. Patrons were divided into students (n=34), faculty (n= I 7), graduate students (n= 14) and visitors (n=4). Patrons constituted a wide range of different nationalities. Thirty-nine percent of the patron respondents visited the library one to three times per week, 23% visited the library three to five times per week, 15% visited the library less than once, 13% made five to seven visits per week, and 10% indicate more than seven weekly. 3) With regard to the importance of general skills, both LSS and patrons found oral skills to be less important than grammar, vocabulary and reading skills. The LSS ranked listening as the least important while patrons ranked speaking as least important skill. The order of ranking other EL general skills for both groups on a 5 point Likert scale (5=most important) were similar. Vocabulary was ranked as most important, grammar as important and reading was of medium importance. Significant differences were found between the mean rankings of both groups with regard to listening (p<.003), speaking (p<.002) and grammar (p<.0008). Results of t-tests show that for ratings of general area skill needs, differences between LSS and patrons were found on listening (p<.05) and vocabulary (p<.0 l ). Results for listening sub-skills showed a significant difference between ratings of LSS and patrons for the item "understanding patrons' speech" (p<.0 1 ), "understanding telephone conversation"

(p<.0 1 ), and for "understanding different accents" (p<.02). Results for speaking sub-skills showed a difference (p<.05) for both "pronouncing intelligibly" and "giving instructions" items. On reading sub-skills, results showed differences for the items "understanding vocabulary in context" (p<.02), "understanding business correspondence" (p<.0 I) and "reading advertisements and menus" (p<.01 ). Finally, results for appropriate language use needs showed a significant difference (p<.0 I) on the item "guessing at contextual clues". Interviews were conducted with four Library directors. They all agreed that although the general rating of LSS English may be good, there is still a lot of room for improvement. They all indicated that communication problems existed between English native speakers­whether supervisors or patrons- and some members of the LSS, which needed to be dealt with. Such communication problems affected on-the-job performance of the LSS even when they were well trained. These problems affected the internal worktlow, when they occurred between NS supervisors and their LSS, and they also affected the Library public area performance when they existed between LSS and patrons. In order to solve these problems, there was a consensus on having the LSS get more English instruction. The most important skills they found to be crucial to the LSS were vocabulary, listening and learning communication strategies. The idea of implementing a Library-oriented EL course was welcomed by all interviewees. One suggested that this tailor-made course be taken by LSS after they had EL training through a general English course. Findings of this study provide evidence that gaps do exist between the perceptions of LSS, patrons and directors. The implementation of a Library-oriented English course was supported by most of the respondents to this study.


School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Date of Award


Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Paul Stevens

Committee Member 1

Paul Stevens

Committee Member 2

Yehia El Ezabi

Committee Member 3

Russanne Hozayin

Document Type



149 leaves

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

English language

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Language surveys


The author retains all rights with regard to copyright. The author certifies that written permission from the owner(s) of third-party copyrighted matter included in the thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study has been obtained. The author further certifies that IRB approval has been obtained for this thesis, or that IRB approval is not necessary for this thesis. Insofar as this thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study is an educational record as defined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 USC 1232g), the author has granted consent to disclosure of it to anyone who requests a copy.

Call Number

Thesis 2002/1