ASIS&T 2013 Annual Meeting 
Montral, Qubec, Canada | November 1-5, 2013

Finding Information in Books: Characteristics of Full-Text Searches in a Collection of 10 Million Books

Craig Willis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Miles Efron, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tuesday, 1:30pm


Searching large collections of digitized books is a relatively new area in information-seeking and retrieval research, made possible by initiatives such as Google Books and the HathiTrust Digital Library. Traditionally, book search has relied exclusively on descriptive metadata, either in online library catalogs or bookstores. Today, the availability of large full-text book collections is transforming how users search and interact with information in books. But the characteristics of these changes are unknown. For this paper, we analyzed query logs from the HathiTrust Digital Library full-text search engine. We analyzed one year of full-text query logs to better understand the types of queries that users are issuing to full-text book collections. We manually classified a random sample of 600 queries to develop a taxonomy of book search query types. We found that users are beginning to search for information in books instead of searching for books. Searches still largely follow bibliographic models, but, as expected, new types of searches are beginning to take advantage of full-text capabilities. Additionally, comparing the results of our query log analysis to searches in other domains we found similar search patterns including short queries, sessions with only a few queries, and users viewing only a few pages of results per query. This study is the first step in a broader research agenda intended to improve searching for information in books.