Tula Giannini, Ph.D., M.L.S., M.M.
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute (




May 2, 2002
Lessons Learned at Dot-Com U.

"In 2000, some $482 million in venture capital was spent on companies building online tools aimed at the higher education market.  So far this year, that amount has dropped to $17 million, according to Eduventures." 



Information Seeking Behavior (ISB) at the Crossroads of the Real and Virtual.
Users are revising their research strategies. 
Old patterns of ISB are being challenged and reconstructed to mirror changes in the very nature of information itself. 

Information residing in cyberspace assumes new knowledge organizations and structures, which are transforming the research landscape and ISB. 


Scholars Are No Longer Tied to Physical Collections. 
  • Users have choices of where to carry out research especially as online full text sources increase dramatically. 
  • As users shift focus to online information, they recognize a new imperative to master online search strategies.
  • These must be consonant with the new research environment characterized by the convergence on the Web of digital media and information services and communities. 




How can information technology bridge the conceptual divide facing users as they move between online searching in the real and virtual?

In the Virtual, users are helped by smart search engines and
by new approaches to information architecture enabling them to visualize content and context in ways that

  • spark interest,
  • raise questions
  • and suggest topics. 



The Study: Comparing 3 variables at NYPL and SIBL; the survey
Research Experience:  User perspective of the research experience 
Research Environment: Environmental elements and factors relevant 
                                          to place and information architecture. 
Research Outcomes:       Information results of research       4




Research Institutes at NYPL and Metropolitan Museum, Watson Library - using online information to illuminate real documents and art objects, and vice-versa.             

                      Information can be a document or art object.

At the Met - exploring the relationship between art and information and art as information in both real and virtual.

At NYPL - exploring special collections through collection-based research using real and virtual tools to bring new perspectives, contexts and information.
Map and Art Collections

Going to the Library to be a Virtual User -           7
  • The relationship real to virtual is unclear to most users. 
  • Bringing their virtual ISB to the library, users go online with the goal of finding all the information they need. 
  • The library's organization of online resources does little to clarify how real and virtual integrate.
  • Whether in the real or virtual, users begin a search online. 
  • Many users go to library simply to gain access to the virtual.

Can you direct me to the Web collections?

Cross-modeling Virtual Information Architecture to Real Library Environments.                                              8
Libraries must more effectively use virtual information and environments to connect users to real collections and services.


Using Web Sites for Intellectual Mapping, Communication of Content and Context, and Building Community, Provides New Options and opportunities for Libraries.
This typical representation of the search process places three of the four tasks in a "pre-search" phase. 

What's wrong with this process?   9

bwo contrasting information environments for online searching; each effects ISB differently.

1. Typical database search box = passive approach (negative)




2. Medscape information environment built around Medline
    = active approach (positive)

Another look at ISB defined for the traditional library in the "before online" era, but still persists today.
"Success" depends on user acting upon system effectively without any outputs/communication from system to user.
"Failure" usually occurs because the user can not visualize or grasp the system's knowledge base. 12

Virtual ISB in Real Libraries - the study shows that: 13
  • The ISB of virtual users at home or work is transported to the library.
  • Users have adopted an ISB based on the virtual in which online searching is a the heart of the process.
  • Users do not change their ISB when moving from real to virtual.
  • Libraries need to redesign research/reference services to meet new user ISB.

Survey Results Shows New Trends in ISB - 
for Users, Virtual Information is Real.
IR systems capable of connecting users with real collections require different design concepts than those for independent virtual systems.



Because library IR systems have grown out of a bibliographic tradition, new types of IR systems are needed in which real and virtual interact and integrate rather than collide.

An IR system needs to be a two-way information exchange where the system initiates interaction.

Web sites should be used as an overlay to a database (knowledge base). 

This study and others show that users need be able to visualize content and understand context of a system's  knowledge base.

This can be achieved using Internet/Web capabilities for display and communication. 

ISB studies remain focused on classic models of IR - filling search boxes with search terms, seeking ways to increase relevance of results, where users carry out standard search tasks as prescribed over decades. 



Thinking out of the Box - placing information retrieval and information seeking in the new Internet/Web environment  where new tools for information display and organization combine with virtual reality and digital media to create dynamic information environments.


Who will develop the library's new Web sites for content and context visualization, intellectual mapping, communication and service?         16



Designing a More Usable World

Transforming information systems into Virtual Learning Environments through Internet and Web Technologies -