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"I Still Prefer Google": University Student Perceptions of Searching OPACs and the Web

Karl V. Fast ( D. Grant Campbell (

Presented at ASIST 2004 Annual Meeting; "Managing and Enhancing Information: Cultures and Conflicts" (ASIST AM 04), Providence, Rhode Island, November 13 - 18, 2004


This paper reports on an exploratory study of how university students perceive and interact with Web search engines compared to Web-based OPACs. A qualitative study was conducted involving sixteen students, eight of whom were first-year undergraduates and eight of whom were graduate students in Library and Information Science. The participants performed searches in Google and on a university OPAC. The interviews and think-afters revealed that while students were aware of the problems inherent in Web searching and of the many ways in which OPACS are more organized, they generally preferred Web searching. The coding of the data suggests that the reason for this preference lies in psychological factors associated with the comparative ease with which search engines can be used, and system and interface factors which made searching the Web much easier and less confusing. As a result of these factors, students were able to approach even the drawbacks of the Web—its clutter of irrelevant pages and the dubious authority of the results—in an enthusiastic and proactive manner, very different from the passive and ineffectual admiration they expressed for the OPAC. The findings suggest that requirements of good OPAC interface design must be aggressively redefined in the face of new, Web-based standards of usability.

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