Re: [ACAT] Assessment in Technical Services

Posting to Autocat

On 14/12/2012 14:02, Julie Moore wrote:

At my university, they actually did some videotaped studies of students trying to navigate the website for usability studies. The results were truly astounding. I watched (and coded) some of the videos. The students had absolutely no clue of what to do or where to start, given various scenarios. They could not manage without one search box because they have become so attuned to Google, therefore, our library ended up giving them what they wanted — one search box. If given more advanced search options, the students could not manage to figure out how to get around. If they made it to the catalog at all, they often just started typing a question in natural language. They were unable to differentiate between the “website” and “the catalog” which is embedded on the website. When asked to find something like the hours of the library on Sunday, they would type “what hours are you open on Sundays?” into the catalog’s search box. We have all made our catalogs embedded into our websites, and now the students, overall, have no idea what is what! They do not differentiate between “the website” and “the catalog.”

Yes! This is reality. These are the people who use our catalogs so of course they won’t find anything. They probably do better by browsing the shelves aimlessly.

What you point out demonstrates why catalogers must look at the catalog through the eyes of the users and not their own eyes. And that is not easy. But once you do, you begin to see the serious problems that people have. Your example of typing in “what hours are you open on Sundays?” into the catalog is simply great–and when seen through the eyes of an untrained member of the public, it makes complete sense because they are using what they learned works on other sites and applying it to a catalog. To us, it’s hilarious, but what kind of conclusions does this student draw about how “good” the catalog is? And that student will be a tax payer someday, perhaps an administrator of power.

Whether we like it or not, in the minds of the patrons, the catalog is merging with the web and there is no way to stop it. Therefore the question becomes “which should adapt?” Does the catalog adapt to the patrons, or do the patrons adapt to the catalog? In effect, information literacy says that librarians are to force the patrons to adapt to the catalog, but that just hasn’t worked. The catalog, as well as the entire library, will be forced to adapt to this situation or die, just as we are watching with newspapers, publishers and the movie industry.

I think libraries can adapt, so long as librarians (re)consider what it is we really do, but I am convinced it will take nothing less than a revolution. Yes, I have to plug my paper I gave in Oslo last February