Wednesday, January 25, 2012

PL 4/12: User behavior in digital libraries

Filed under: research — plinius @ 8:03 am

JISC has published a metastudy – summarizing twelve separate investigations – about user behavior in academic libraries. I quote:

Among the central findings

  • Disciplinary differences do exist in researcher behaviours, both professional researchers and students.
  • E-journals are increasingly very important to the process of research at all levels.
  • The evidence provided by the results of the studies supports the centrality of Google and other search engines.
  • Google is often used to locate and access e-journal content.
  • At the same time, the entire Discovery-to-Delivery process needs to be supported by information systems, including increased access to resources.
  • Journal backfiles are particularly problematic in terms of access

The realities of the online environment observed above led several studies to some common conclusions about changing user behaviours:

  • Regardless of age or experience, academic discipline, or context of the information need, speed and convenience are important to users.
  • Researchers particularly appreciate desktop access to scholarly content.
  • Users also appreciate the convenience of electronic access over the physical library.
  • Users are beginning to desire enhanced functionality in library systems.
  • They also desire enhanced content to assist them in evaluating resources.
  • They seem generally confident in their own ability to use information discovery tools.
  • However, it seems that information literacy has not necessarily improved.
  • High-quality metadata is thus becoming even more important for the discovery process.

In addition, some common findings regarding content and resources arise:

  • More digital content of all kinds and formats is almost uniformly seen as better
  • People still tend to think of libraries as collections of books
  • Despite this, researchers also value human resources in their information-seeking

In some cases, the studies reviewed included findings which seem to contradict one another, and for which evidence may be mixed:

  • There is evidence for both broad and narrow range of tools used for scholarly research
  • There is evidence both in favour and against formal training in electronic searching
  • There are mixed conclusions on the question of whether recommendations, provided by recommender systems, and social media are having an impact on information seeking

In a few cases, the above findings from the studies under review offered evidence that runs counter to popular perceptions of the current information scene.

  • Many popular media claims about the ‘Google generation’ may not be supported by all the evidence
  • In choosing among search engines, some evidence indicates that speed may not be the most important evaluative factor
  • The studies that addressed library OPACs provide little support for the advanced search options which are still popular in these systems



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