User Behavior in the Electronic Library: The Case for Adaptive and Flexible Interfaces
by Oya Y. Rieger, Cornell University Library
Mann Library, part of the Cornell University Library, developed the Mann Library Gateway, a set of Web pages that can guide the user to many electronic resources, including both proprietary and free resources (http://www.mannlib.cornell.edu). At the time of this study, there were over 600 resources, and now there are nearly 1000. These resources could be full-text, bibliographic, numeric and spatial, or graphical. The resources are grouped by broad subject categories, and a search box is provided to search the descriptions of the databases. Oya Rieger presented the results of a user study intended to evaluate the use of the Gateway and to gather information about user requirements. The study was conducted between January and September 1996, by means of Mann Library staff focus groups involving 54 staff members and faculty and student surveys involving 26 faculty members and 16 students. The findings of the study were -- 65% of the faculty and 88% of the students were unaware of the number and variety of resources available through the Gateway when asked to estimate the number of resources. -- 77% of the faculty and 44% of the students used only one or two databases -- faculty followed their tried and tested methods for gathering information in areas they were unfamiliar with, relying on colleagues and known experts in these areas. E-mail was used frequently as a tool. -- very simple search strategies were used in searching bibliographic databases: 84% of the faculty and 100% of the students used only keyword searching. The other 16% of the faculty would also search for works by a known author.
A detailed account of the findings will be published in: Payette, Sandy; Rieger, Oya Y., Supporting Scholarly Inquiry: Incorporating Users in the Design of the Digital Library, Journal of Academic Librarianship, to be published in January, 1998.
Library Online Catalog Use in the Web Environment: The Experience of a Public Library, by Dan Iddings, Carnegie Library, Pittsburgh
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (http://www.clpgh.org) is a 40 library consortium in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania. The Web is the common (only) user interface to electronic library resources, including the online catalog (DRA). The Library has 700-750 public access machines running Netscape and about 300 staff machines. These machines have unrestricted access to everything on the World-Wide Web. Dan Iddings demonstrated the creative ways to integrate the online catalog with library-produced finding aids, and other resources on the Internet, including local sites on the Three Rivers Free-Net (owned and operated by the public library).
Using a totally Web-based approach has these benefits:
-- a consistent user interface;
-- interoperability with other Web-based resources;
-- finding tools are easily created and integrated with other resources;
-- links from the online catalog to relevant Web sites are easily created (e.g., the Three Rivers Free-Net Web site pages are cataloged)
Some issues the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has faced: -- workstations are popular and staff have to do some policing to insure everyone gets access -- many patrons are using a mouse for the first time and need help with this.
Where our Patrons Go in Cyberspace: Click-Stream Analysis in an Academic Research Library, Laura Cousineau and John Little, Duke University (Derek Lane and Jim Coble, co-investigators)
The data for this study was collected between January and June, 1997. At the beginning of this period, the main interface to the online catalog was Telnet, switching to a Web interface in the spring. There were a limited number of workstations which had Internet access, while other workstations had access to the online catalog or to in-house databases. A proxy server was used to capture information Internet resources being accessed, the accessing workstations, time of day, etc.
This study was designed to answer these questions:
-- How are our patrons using the Web: to access library resources? to find other academic resources? for recreational use?
-- Does recreational use crowd out academic use? Scarce resources (number of computers, number of network connections, physical space, and funding) require that the existing resources be targeted appropriately. The library has no desire to censor access to the Internet.
Over a period of six months, the proxy server recorded every click at 33 selected workstations in four area: the main library (near the reference desk), the public documents department, Lilly Library and the Chemistry Library. The busy periods for each of the four locations were selected for analysis. (Graphic images were not included in counts of files accessed.)
For this study, a library resource was defined as any server whose name ended in ělib.duke.eduî or any server for subscription electronic resources. Other URLs had to be manually classified as academic or not academic. A Web site was considered to be academic if that site contained information which was similar to information contained in resources currently collected by the reference department.
Top Eight Academic Sites:
|Academic Web Sites||Results|
|# of Hits||page info|
|www.lib.duke.edu||9835||library home page|
|sbweb2.med.iacnet.com||5682||Infotrac on the Web|
|www.duke.edu||1949||University Home Page|
|frontier.lib.duke.edu||1925||ERL and e-reserves server|
Top Eight Non-Academic Sites:
|Non-Academic Web Sites||Results|
|# of Hits||page info|
Several reference librarians noted that sites which appear to be recreational (or even pornographic) in nature could be accessed as part of legitimate academic studies.