I’ve made some brief notes on this talk by Lynn Silipigni Connaway (OCLC) about the behaviours of digital information seekers. I have to admit I found lots to disagree with in this presentation – but food for thought as well!
[Update: See comment from Dr Connaway below with some further information about the work she was summarising in this presentation - including the very important point that the themes she covered were common themes from the 12 studies that were reviewed rather than her opinions - sorry if this isn't clear from the notes]
Lynn carried out a JISC funded analysis of 12 user behaviour studies conducted in the US and UK, all published within the last 5 years. 5 of the studies came out of OCLC, and others from JISC, and the RIN User Behaviour Project. A brief summary of this is available at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/reports/2010/digitalinformationseekers.aspx
Essentially users want access to digital content. Convenience dictates choice between physical and virtual library. Even in situations where the difference is very small – e.g. walking over to a reference desk, or sitting at a desk in the library and asking the question via a virtual service – the users will do the latter because it is more convenient.
Found users spent very little time using the content (while they are in ‘seeking’ mode I think this means) – they ‘squirrel’ downloads – get quick chunks of information. They tend to visit resource for just a few minutes, and tend to use very basic search. There was no evidence that more advanced searching was needed.
Tended to use snippets from e-books, viewing only a few pages, using Google-like interfaces. Used ‘Power Browsing’ rather than doing more finessed searches. Users really valued ‘human resources’ – liked face to face (e.g. with librarians) [not sure how this works alongside previous statement about convenience?]
Users tended to associate libraries with collections of books, but on otherhand felt that the more digital content the better.
Tended to find ‘faculty’ praise physical collection – and when asked what they wanted, they said ‘wine & beer & easy chairs’!
Electronic databases not perceived as library sources – although there is an awareness that the University pays for access to content.
Users frustrated with locating and accessing full-text copies.
Found Information literacy skills were lacking – not kept pace with digital literacy. Researchers generally self-taught and have (often misplaced) confidence in their skills. General people stick with what is familiar. Found that doctoral students take cues from their professors/supervisors – will do what they seem their ‘seniors’ doing – and this is probably what will get passed on in turn.
Found that the more familiar people were with a subject area, the broader they will be in their searching – they don’t want to miss anything, and they trust their judgement over those who might index the resources. Those less familiar with an area, will be more specific with their searching.
Found people often turned to general search engines to get overview of an area.
- Value database and other online sources
- Do not understand what resource available in libraries
- Cannot ditinguish between database held by a library and other online sources
- Library OPACs difficult to use
Searh behaviours vary by discipline
Desire seamless process from Discovery to Delivery. Sciences most satisfied, Social Science and Arts & Humanitites have serious gaps – particularly difficult to find:
- Foreign Language materials
- Multi-author materials
- Journal backfiles
Inadequately catalogued resources result in underuse
Library ownership of sources important – “where can I get this?”
Differences exist between the catalogue data quality priorities of users and librarians.
‘One size fits noone’
- Simpler searches & power browsing
- Squirreling of downloads
- Natural language
- Convenience very important
- Human resource valued
- D2D of full-text digital content desired
- Transparency of ranking results
- Evaluative information included in catalog
- More robust metadata
Implications for librarians:
- Serve different constituencies
- Adapt to changing user behaviours – look at 12 year-olds now
- Offer service in multiple formats
- Provide seamless access to digital resources
- Better branding/marketing of our services …
Implications for library systems:
- Build on and integrate search engine features
- Provide search help at time of need – e.g. Chat and IM help during search
- Adopt user-centered development approach
What does this mean for libraries?
- Keep talking
- Keep moving – and we need to move faster
- Keep the gates open – make it easier to get to stuff
- Keep it simpler