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