Thursday, 29 March 2012

“I wouldn’t start from here” Overcoming barriers to accessing online content in libraries

Breakout Session 1:  – Dave Pattern, University of Huddersfield

This breakout session discussed the issues users have when trying to access electronic resources and why we should be making it as easy as possible to access information.

Dave had used Twitter to ask for feedback on what the one thing would be that people would improve about e-resources if they had a magic wand. Responses were:

  • Authentication
  • Ease of Access
  • Discoverability
  • Affordability
  • No DRM
  • Licensing

Conspiracy Theories:

Before going into these points a little further he discussed some conspiracy theories about libraries:

  • MARC 21: Why is there still the punctuation? Is it so cataloguers can print off perfect cataloguing cards? What are they really up to?

  • Why are librarians trying to turn users into mini-librarians and bombarding them with library terminology? We should be aware that users will use the path of least resistance, the easiest way from point A to point B, for example Wikipedia and Google.
    As an example he discussed helping students and troubleshooting issues they had getting into resources. This showed a user following an almost never ending chain of links and password logins (some not so obvious) before finally being turned away from the article they wanted to use. Then trying Google by searching for the article title and finding the first result to be an open access PDF. – Why would users want to go through all those complicated steps when the information they want could have been found so much easier? This led on to the last conspiracy theory:

  • We don’t want our users to be able to access our e-resources!?  There appear to be multiple barriers to gaining access to resources and this all works against Ranganathan’s 4th law of “Save the time of the reader”. Seamless access to resources is possible when everything works as it should so we need to simplify the process as much as possible for the user.

Discoverability Tools:

He then discussed discoverability tools and proxy server authentication and the impact it had had on e-resource usage. At the University of Huddersfield students are being directed to Summon as a first point of call and stats showed that full text download numbers increased suddenly with the use of a discovery tool.
Data they had gathered also showed that full text COUNTER statistics shot up after a publisher became indexed on Summon and that there was a decline in usage for those that were not indexed. There was also a decline in the use of platforms with open URL issues.

These statistics can of course have a significant impact once it comes to renewals so could be used as ammunition to get publishers to work together with discovery services (in this case Summon).

He then discussed serendipity in the library using recommendations like “people who borrowed this item also borrowed…” Adding these messages showed a wider use of library stock.

Library Impact Data Project:

This project run in 2011 aimed to prove the value that libraries give to students and to prove correlation between library usage and academic success or failure.
Usage data was taken from eight UK universities and strong correlation was found between good grades and the number of Athens logins, the total number of downloads and average total number of resources.
However, coming to a library PC was not necessarily as productive.

A study by Manchester Metropolitan University shows there is a possibility that students who use the VLE late at night are more likely to be struggling and to drop out. It also appears that students who use the library between 9am and 11am are most likely to be the highest achievers.

In Summary:

  • Save the time of the user
  • Make accessing e-resources as easy as searching Google
  • Information literacy is important but goes against the path of least resistance
  • E-resource usage is linked to attainment
  • Publishers need to make content available to discovery services
  • Build e-resources with serendipity

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for blogging the session, Claire!

    The slides are available here: