DOES IT MATTER WHERE?
Comparing User Research Experience and
Outcomes in Real & Virtual Environments.
by Tula Giannini, Ph.D., M.L.S., M.M.,
Associate Professor, Pratt-SILS
A NEW RESEARCH LANDSCAPE
Venues and technology of research at the
crossroads of real and cyber space.
Library Research Seminar II
University of Maryland, November 2001
|FROM A MICRO TO A MACRO APPROACH
TO ONLINE SEARCHING STUDIES.
Most studies focus on end-user
This study looks at online searching in real and virtual environments from a macro perspective by exploring the wider parameters of the research landscape through the perspective of three variables:
1. Research environment (place)
2. Research experience (user)
3. Research outcomes (search results)
Users are no longer tied to physical collections and have
choices of where to carry out research especially as
online fulltext sources increase dramatically.
|(RE) RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT||(SE) SEARCH EXPERIENCE||(S0) SEARCH OUTCOMES|
|REAL = LIBRARY
|PERSONAL PERSPECTIVES||COMPARING USER SEARCH RESULTS|
|Comparing online searching in 3 venues:
Home = virtual
user searches solo in personal environment)
Library = real collaborative, sharing and community environment, Integrated = combined VE & RE
|The quality of user experience is greatly influenced by RE and SO and ultimately determines which RE users choose and thus, directly impacts the future of libraries.||Evaluating the information users retrieve for its quality and usefulness.|
|TESTING USER PERCEPTIONS - The Study
Choices users make as to where to carry out research are based on perceptions about environment, experience and outcomes, rather than any particular search system, database service, etc.
If online searching at home alone is perceived by users to be more convenient and comfortable than in the library, and further, if in the future, access to online sources off site are comparable to the library's, will users recognize advantages to library research that will counterbalance these enticements of home?
Importantly, user perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of each environment are pivotal to the choices that they make for online searching.
This study attempts to measures the impact of user
perceptions of the research landscape, and to understand what trade-offs
users are willing to make in the context of what they perceive as advantages
and disadvantages of the real and the virtual library environment.
|5Web search engine
(80%) and specific database (60%) were students' top choices for where to
begin online research.
1. Of the following options, which one do you generally
find most useful for beginning your research?
Ranked most useful (1) to least useful (6).
|Web Search Engine||12||5||3||3||2||0|
|% ranked 1-3||80%|
|% ranked 4-6||20%|
|% ranked 1-3||40%|
|% ranked 4-6||60%|
|% ranked 1-3||52%|
|% ranked 4-6||48%|
|% ranked 1-3||60%|
|% ranked 4-6||40%|
|% ranked 1-3||56%|
|% ranked 4-6||44%|
|% ranked 1-3||36%|
|% ranked 4-6||65%next|
|6Significantly, 68% preferred work
or home to the library
for online searching.
2. Ranking preferences of search environment.
Responses show a slight preference for the work environment.
Environments ranked as first preference with percent.
Work 10 = 40%
Library 8 = 32%
Home 7 = 28%
|3. What do you
see as the most significant limitation of the library environment for online
searching? Identify two or three.
Summary of responses-
focus on convenience and research atmosphere
Library home page not user friendly
This response underscores
contradictions in student thinking -
4. Is online searching
enhanced in the library environment?
Students appreciated the richness of online library resources, most of which were not available from home, as well as having free access to them. They preferred the library environment for research. Happy to be away from the distractions of home and work, they valued the professional help and expertise of librarians as an important if not essential aspect of research, and distinct advantage of online searching in the library.
|Sources and Services||Environment||Library Staff|
5. Based on your experience in research libraries, what recommendations do you have for improving online research services?
Student answers show that they recognize the
library's important social aspects and human values and
the experience of a landscape totally devoted to research.
6. Comparing real and virtual
|Environmental factors||Resource factors||Logistics and Research Strategies||Technology issues|
8. When doing research in the library, what is the most likely reason
for you to seek help with online searching?
Rank 1-7, where 1 is most likely.
Most students ranked the given list of reasons for seeking help as follows:
1. Learn what databases
10. When you are doing online research at home,
what do you do if you need assistance?
|Yes - 21||No - 3|
|NYPL electronic resources xxxxxxxxxx
NYPL OPAC xxxxxxxxx
Library catalogs xxxxxxxxx
Electronic databases xxxxx
Books: borrowing, hold, renewal xxxx
Library of Congress OPAC xxx
Brooklyn Public Library electronic resources
Pratt Library's electronic resources
|1913. Based on your experience with online searching, what do you consider the most significant challenges that end-users face. Rate the following from 1 (most significant) to 12. Comment of your top 2 choices.|
|1. Having access to subscription
2. The cost of fulltext services
3. Evaluating search results
4. Finding information that responds to research need.
5. Taking too much time finding useful information
6. Selecting the most appropriate sources for a topic.
7. Understanding and interpreting results
8. Feeling confident in information found
9. Using information selected to make decisions
10. Using free information wisely
11. Keeping within legal and ethical boundaries of information use.
12. Access to high speed Internet connections
*Subscriptions and cost relate to a divide between who those who have
access and those who don't.
*It can be very time consuming to identify a needed source if you do not
have access to subscription databases.
*Most research libraries restrict who can use their databases both on site
and off. next
Conflicting responses show students' mixed emotions.
Even though 60% of students said they preferred the home search environment, when they were asked, "Do you think that where you carry out your research and online searching makes a difference to your search outcomes?" 67.5% said that the library produced better results.
This contradiction reveals user conflict and difficulty assigning meaning to what they perceive as the advantages and disadvantages of the real and virtual.
How users resolve this conflict of values will greatly impact libraries.
Users are deciding what trade-offs they are willing to make. Is it worth giving up better resources for more convenience and comfort?
Clearly, libraries must take a new path with a new
vision of service that provides the best of both worlds. Libraries
will need to connect users in both real and virtual, allowing them to customize
service to meet a variety of research needs and to fine tune their research
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS SCENARIO
THE INTEGRATED RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT
The research environment as flowing between the real & virtual.
Students identified the following
factors as being important to them.
CROSS-MODELING REAL AND VIRTUAL
RESEARCH SUPPORT SYSTEMS
Interaction and communication
in cyberspace offers useful lessons
One such tool for facilitating library research is computer mediated communication using the Internet and Web as a means to show information and to provide a common information workspace of shared content to which both librarian and user can react and interact.
A "collaboration support system" that models the reference process online designed by Shigeo Sugimoto and presented at the 1995 Digital Libraries Conference, Austin, Texas, makes clear the need for comparable collaboration and information sharing in the real.
Similarly, library Web pages,
online databases and catalogs need to move from source lists and fill in
the blanks search forms, to information displays
Seeds of Change: Social Effects of Political Crisis
Point to a Greater Role for Library Community.
Students were asked how the current political crisis might effect libraries and whether "people will seek to build library communities to meet new needs."
Out of 34 responses, 29 (85%) agreed with this notion,
These results show that users will likely seek greater
How can the library world meet this new challenge.
MOVING FROM A USER CENTRIC TO
A COMMUNITY CENTRIC PERSPECTIVE.
Shifting Gears: from community library to library community, from buildings that house collections
to building communities that use them.
Today, we have new tools to achieve a new kind of library community and library community networks through advanced information and communication technologies especially the Internet and World Wide Web.
Shifting our notion that a library is essentially a service that meets users needs, to one in which users become community members that participate in the library, and where service flows in both directions, from user to library and from library to user, could have far reaching effects.
In this type of environment, users will not have
to choose between real and virtual, but rather will have an array of options
in response to a broad spectrum of research and information needs.
Search skills gained from user instruction can help users participate in online community
The library should work to extend its institutional culture to the online environment so that the real and virtual become parts of a whole.
A new information architecture is needed to reconfigure reference service transforming it to research services where librarians work with scholars using online searching.
|ACTION AND INTERACTION
The user/library relationship should flow between the real and the virtual connecting a user's solo endeavour in private space to a collaborative one in pubic space.
retreat to the suburbs of cyberspace
or join library communities?
Online services link library communities and users to libraries.
The Internet and Web provide the platform for community
communication, collaboration and sharing.
Library communities can link to form library networks.
Virtual library services can be mirrored in the real:
e-mail, chat, collaborative research, online instruction,
interactive tutorials, digital media -
The Web can serve to communicate collection content,
research methods and strategies, and to connect with library
users at home to reinforce sense of community membership. next
BENEFITS TO LINKING LIBRARY COMMUNITIES
TO FORM COMMUNITY NETWORKS
Local library communities can link with state, regional
and national communities to form library community
networks for researchers, scholars, students and faculty. Such
networks would do much to erase the digital resource
divide between large research institutions and smaller colleges
and universities so that students could have equal access to resources. Members
of one library community could use facilities of another. A library
community network would give the library and library profession a greater
voice and presence, and also offer members a library
commons or forum to exchange information and address issues.
Libraries have already begun to transform themselves
in ways that support community building through new approaches to IA in the
both the real and virtual.
Hi tech architecture links
old and new to build community and benefit users.
34Archives Nationales - Paris,
"Proposed entry to the expanded and renovated Anderson
38The University of Houston's
library expansion of the and renovation makes clear its move toward building
library community, and the process of integrating the real and virtual. Its
vision illustrates current trends in reinventing the library and redefining
its role and mission in the university community in teaching, education,
communication, and access to online information, placing online searching
at the heart of the process - the point at which users