Thursday, January 31, 2008

Open Forum Recap 1/31

A special thanks to everyone who made it to the Resource Discovery Open Forum this afternoon!

For those of you who couldn't make it, here is what we covered. Allan Barclay demoed Aquabrowser and Eric Larson showed us VuFind.

Columbus Metropolitan Library implementation
Oklahoma State University implementation
University of Chicago implementation

Live Demo

We asked everyone to answer the following questions at the beginning of the session:

"What will the library search experience be like in five years?"
"What are the first things you'd change?"

If you weren't at the forum, leave a comment with your answers to these questions. I'll summarize the responses from forum attendees in an upcoming post.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Where Do We Start and What Do Our Users Really Want?

Thanks to everyone for commenting. It is important to acknowledge that people begin searches differently and that these processes change according to the task at hand. Searching for information is personal and so we definitely want to select tools that can be customized by our users.

I asked you to describe how you begin a search for information to stress the importance of focusing on the user and making decisions based on their needs. The comments revealed two common threads in how you search for information. Many start their searches with a search engine and many value recommendations from trusted peers in social networks. Let's take a look at some recent studies to give us a rough idea of how our students might compare.

According to OCLC's 2005 report, College Students' Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources, 89 percent of college student information searches begin with a search engine. Library Web sites were selected by only 2 percent of students as a place to begin an information search. Search engines were rated higher than libraries in the areas of reliability, cost-effectiveness, ease of use, convenience, and speed. So it seems that many of our users might agree with Sue in that whatever they use "it's got to be simple and FAST."

Only 2 percent of college students are starting searches at library Web sites, but this doesn't mean that the aren't using libraries. The recent PEW Internet study, Information Searches that Solve Problems, found that young adults (18-29) are the heaviest users of libraries when looking for information to solve problems. They are also the most likely visitors to the library for any purpose and especially value access to computers and the Internet.

So, if we know we have young adults in our libraries (I sure know they are in College Library!), how do we get them to use library resources? Well, we can start by asking them how they would improve library tools and by paying attention to what they already use.

Researchers at Idaho University Libraries conducted focus groups with undergraduate library users and asked them to describe a "dream information machine." The students imagined a machine that was a "mind reader," that was "intuitive," and could determine information needs without them having to verbalize them. The "dream machine" would be able to solve all of their information needs by searching a comprehensive collection of information resources. The ideal information source would also be portable and always available. What would your ideal information source look like?

Where does social networking fit in to all of this? Many of you reported that you start a search for information by consulting with a respected peer either in person or online. Does this mean that librarians should be in social networking sites or that social networking should be in the catalog? There will probably never be a consensus about whether or not librarians should be in Facebook and MySpace. The recent University of Michigan Library Web Survey found that 23% of library users would be interested in contacting a librarian in Facebook or Myspace, nearly half wouldn't be interested in contacting a librarian this way, and the rest don't use social networking sites. Many librarians in the blogosphere took this to mean that we shouldn't be in social networking sites. To me, this means that I should be in social networking sites for the 23% interested in talking to me (as long as I'm not stalking those that don't). Let's wait and see how our users feel about enriching the catalog with user reviews and ratings before we make any assumptions there.

The Resource Discovery Task Force does plan to conduct user surveys and focus groups to get a better idea of what our users value. Let's talk more about user needs and how to fill them at our open forum on Thursday, January 31 from 12:30 - 1:30 in Memorial 126.

Happy first day of class!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Next Generation Resource Discovery

What is the Resource Discovery Exploratory Task Force?

The Resource Discovery Exploratory Task Force is charged with developing a vision for information resource discovery in the Libraries that supports teaching, learning and research at UW-Madison. The Task Force will conduct an environmental scan of current options, including the opportunities and challenges of each. Our tasks include looking at available software options and querying our patrons and staff about their information seeking behaviors and how we can better satisfy their information and resource discovery needs.

The Resource Discovery Task Force members are:
  • Allan Barclay
  • Susan Barribeau
  • Sue Dentinger (co-chair)
  • Kelli Keclik (co-chair)
  • Eric Larson
  • Albert Quattrucci
  • Karen Rattunde
  • Curran Riley

The task force is slated to present its findings to UW Madison library management by the end of May 2008.

Why do we need a Resource Discovery Exploratory Task Force?

Resource discovery with traditional library tools is a frustrating and time-consuming process for many researchers. As a result, information seekers frequently bypass the library in favor of tools that provide quick and easy results and are fun to use, like Google. Google offers features like relevancy ranking, customization, spell checking and provides instant access to a variety of information resources (web sites, images, videos, etc) without asking you to select an index. Compare Google searching to the many steps and decisions one must make in order to locate a scholarly article on our web site and you start to get a sense of the problem.

What’s in the future?

Luckily, there are several commercial options, like Primo and Endeca, and several open source options, like VuFind and LibraryFind, that are working to close this gap. The task force will explore these different products and approaches and make a recommendation based on user needs, our vision for the future of resource discovery, and the current library technology infrastructure. We will also define the broad technological infrastructure required to be well-positioned to handle future information discovery changes. How can we create an environment where change happens more rapidly and easily?

Why do we need this blog?

The purpose of this blog is to promote discussion and learn about your vision for the future of resource discovery. We will ask big picture questions and solicit feedback on particular products and tools. This blog will function as a companion piece to our monthly open forums. Staff, students, and faculty are encouraged to contribute to the blog and attend open forums. Open forums will be held in Memorial Library 126 at the following times:

  • Thursday January 31, 2008, 12:30 – 1:30 pm
  • Friday March 7, 2008, 12:00 – 1:00 pm
  • Friday April 4, 2008, 12:00-1:00 pm
  • Friday May 2, 2008, 12:00 – 1:00 pm

A more complete description for each session is forthcoming.

A question for you!

Where do you typically begin your search for information on a particular topic? Why?