The library is a good source, if you have several months. Why Library Sources Are Not the First Choice

  • Lynn Silipigni Connaway – Research Scientist, OCLC
We know that users are not looking to the library as the first choice for information. OCLC conducted a series of focus groups for 31 faculty, 19 graduate students, and 28 undergraduate students to find out why. Participants were randomly selected and paid $35 - $50 for their time, plus food.

Question: Think of a time when you had a situation and you needed answers quickly.

[quotes were transcribed quickly and are not verbatim]

I stay away from the library and library online catalog.

I call my father. He always has his cell phone, I can text him. He’ll tell me or he’ll find out. I never ask mother. My mother is a librarian. She wants to teach me how to find things. Dad will just tell me. I just want an answer.

Students tend to go to human resources first. Will ask friends, roommates, family.
When they use search engines, they go to Google first, then Yahoo (a little). They know Lexis Nexis and Jstore. Brand recognition is important. They use general JStore for science! If faculty member tells them to use a particular source, then that source has legitimacy.

Grad students use Google, their personal libraries, EBSCO (i.e., brand names). Human resources: friends, advisors, faculty. If faculty recommends a resource, then that’s the resource they want. (Librarians have to get to faculty and show what we can do for them.)

Faculty: Tend to use Google first, but they recognize Google is quick and dirty. Google is user friendly; library catalog is not. 95% of all scholarly inquiries start at Google. When you think about it, Google represents nothing but trillions of old fashioned footnotes.

One researcher in this project observed a student who wanted to find coverage of Hurricane Katrina in newspapers from developing countries. The library had Ethnic Newswatch. The student was intelligent and computer-savvy. He spent 30 minutes searching the library website but he never found Ethnic Newswatch.

Question: Have there been times when you knew the library had information you needed but you chose not to use it?

Undergrads: The library is good if you have several months.

Hard to find things in the library catalog.

I tried going to the library but had to go online

Grad students:
The library system requires like 15 logins.

A faculty member talked about book I never read. I went to Amazon and read the synopsis, reviews, etc, so I could talk about the book. Why doesn’t the library provide that?

Magic Wand question: If you had a magic want what would your ideal library be like?

Undergrads: More staff, roaming personnel.

Make the library like a coffee house.

Make the library like Home Depot where the staff wear orange vests so I know who to ask.

Librarian says go to 5th floor, but then I can’t find what I need. Why isn’t there someone on the 5th floor?

Space to work with groups.

Food and comfortable seats.

Why isn’t there a universal library card? When I go home I have to have a different library card.

The library website is alphabetical or by subject. The lists are overwhelming. How do I know what subject area to pick! If I pick chemistry, what if it’s in physics?

Why aren’t there drive –up services ? Just to return a book I get a parking ticket.

Could I call the library? That would be great cause I always have my cell phone.

When seeking personal information (e.g., travel, product reviews, cars) they want authoritative sources. For academic work, if professor says “get five articles,” five is all they want. Five is “good enough.”

Faculty: lessen the intimidation factor (faculty said this!! They don’t want anyone to know they don’t know.) Provide better signs and pathfinders. Book store environment. They don’t want virtual references unless someone has recommended it to them.

Emerging Themes:
More than 1/3 use search engines other than Google (mostly Yahoo)
Google is used to get familiar with topic. Users feel that Google is current, and that the library may not be.

Undergrads are not interested in IM for reference. IM is for friends and family, not for strangers. Also, what if the librarian doesn't know my subject area? What if the person on the other end is a serials killer?

Users still use the library, just not at first. They’ll go to Amazon and use the recommender service. They love the “look inside the book” feature. They'll search Amazon, then copy and paste to the library catalog to find the item, because the library catalog is too hard to search.

Transaction logs show that 90% of searches are keyword searches. Users do not care about advanced search features. Most searches are one word searches.

Users view commercial sources such as EBSOhost or Lexis-Nexis as provided by the university, not the library! You can’t access EBSCO if you are not at the university. We pay for it through student fees, and the university gives it to us.

Reference to the TV show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The game show allows contestants to have a Lifeline, someone they can call when they need extra help. Couldn’t the library provide someone like that?

Library systems are hard to use. Library catalogs and websites are too difficult. Mentioned this article in the Dallas Morning News.