At another UKSG breakout session Dave Pattern from the University of Huddersfield presented a humorous, stat-filled presentation (proving the two can go hand in hand), about the difficulties faced by users when accessing online library content.
To prepare for the presentation he’d posted a question on twitter:
and received a plethora of responses, including ones from our very own @mcbjazz, which broadly fell in issues around:
With the number of responses he had he said he had enough content for about 32 presentations, not one but essentially the crux of his argument was about how difficult we, libraries, publishers, aggregators make it for users to access e-content. This is at odds with the expectation of the user who is looking for the easiest and most convenient way, hence their propensity to use Google and Wikipedia. This is demonstrated by a quote from a college freshman as part of Carol Tenopir’s research:
and other researchers have found that users will sacrifice the quality of information for accessibility (Morville, 2005).
Dave illustrated how difficult it was to access online library content with an access query he’d recently had from a student. The user was faced with 3 potential log-ins; publisher, Shibboleth and Athens all of which Dave tried and failed. With the number of clicks and pages the user would have to go through to find out the article was not available via that route it is easy to see why users get frustrated and give up using library e-resources. Dave did a search on Google, found the article and emailed the user.
So the challenge is for libraries to make access like Google and resource discovery is addressing this but the publishers need to make more content available via resource discovery – this is non-negotiable. At Summon camp it was mentioned that an institution in the US asks whether the provider is on Summon and if they are not they will not purchase the item. As we’re currently implementing Summon is this a policy we would want to endorse? Should we not renew any products not available on Summon?
Since implementing Summon at Huddersfield Dave estimates there has been 70-80% decrease in the number of access queries, previously spending 5 hours a week and now it’s probably an hour a week. So it’s having impact and resource discovery is removing some the barriers to accessing e-resources.
What’s interesting at Huddersfield is how they are using usage stats from Summon and linking it to educational attainment via the JISC Library Impact Data Project. Through deeper analysis they’re attempting to find indicators of academic success and failure: does using e-resources at unsociable hours indicate low achievement? What are the information seeking behaviours of high achievers? Gathering data around this is really useful because if you are able to state “Students who use the library’s e-resources get better grades” it has much more clout in terms of library marketing rather than focussing on all the stuff we have and reminds me of the message Terry Kendrick gave at his marketing training to BCU staff.
Another interesting thing they do at Huddersfield is make recommendations to the borrower on the OPAC, similar to amazon which has meant an increase in borrowing of unique titles, for more details look at COPAC data activity project.
For a copy of Dave Pattern’s slides click here.