OCLC Researchers Analyze, Synthesize Studies of the Digital Information Seeker

DUBLIN, Ohio, May 6, 2010—OCLC Research scientists, in partnership with JISC, have analyzed and synthesized 12 separate studies to make it easier for information professionals to better understand information-seeking behaviors of library users and to review the issues associated with the development of information services and systems that will best meet these users’ needs.

The Digital Information Seeker: Report of Findings From Selected OCLC, RIN and JISC User Behaviour Projects, by Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D. and Timothy J. Dickey, Ph.D., OCLC Research, was funded by JISC, and was presented during the JISC Annual Conference in London in April.

The 12 selected studies were commissioned and/or supported by non-profit organizations and government agencies, and were reviewed by Dr. Connaway and Dr. Dickey who analyzed the findings, compared their analyses and identified the overlapping and contradictory findings.

A synthesis of findings from these major user studies points toward a number of implications for libraries that are shared by multiple studies, including:

  • Library systems must do better at providing seamless access to resources
  • Librarians must increasingly consider a greater variety of digital formats and content
  • Library systems and content must be prepared for changing user behaviours
  • Library systems need to look and function more like search engines, i.e., Google and Yahoo, and Web services, i.e., Amazon.com, since these are familiar to users who are comfortable and confident in using them
  • High-quality metadata is becoming more important for discovery of appropriate resources
  • The library must advertise its brand, its value, and its resources better within the community

There are many more published user behaviour studies than the 12 included in this synopsis and analysis, according to the study. This study was an attempt to review major, funded studies that were published within the last five years and that specifically addressed electronic content, users’ perceptions of their information-seeking behaviours, and library catalogues. In addition, an emphasis was placed on studies of U.K. users. This analysis provided an opportunity to identify the common findings as well as the contradictory findings.

“The findings from the 12 studies indicate that users want access to even more full-text digital content,” the study concludes. “Though they value the traditional library services and human sources of information, they are already adapting to new realities in the information world, and new opportunities in access to information resources.”

The full text of The Digital Information Seeker: Report of Findings From Selected OCLC, RIN and JISC User Behaviour Projects can be found on the JISC Web site at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/reports/2010/digitalinformationseekerreport.pdf.

About JISC

Over six million people in the UK are served by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). They are students and staff in further and higher education institutions and the Research Councils. JISC supports these groups of users through high quality initiatives and services, and by providing the expertise, independent advice, guidance and resources to promote the effective and innovative use of Information and Communications Technology. More about JISC is at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/.

About OCLC

Founded in 1967, OCLC is a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing library costs. More than 72,000 libraries in 171 countries have used OCLC services to locate, acquire, catalog, lend, preserve and manage library materials. Researchers, students, faculty, scholars, professional librarians and other information seekers use OCLC services to obtain bibliographic, abstract and full-text information when and where they need it. OCLC and its member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the world’s largest online database for discovery of library resources. Search WorldCat on the Web at www.worldcat.org. For more information, visit www.oclc.org.