On information seeking report

The Project Information Literacy released their research report titled “Lessons Learned: How College Students Seek Information in the Digital Age” in 2009.  The PDF report can be found at http://projectinfolit.org/pdfs/PIL_Fall2009_Year1Report_12_2009.pdf.

What makes this report interesting is that the group also try to dig deeper on how students developed their strategy in their information needs both for their course-related works and everyday life. In general, the students use course readings, library resources, and things like Google and Wikipedia when conducting course-related research. They tend to use Google, Wikipedia, and friends when it came to everyday life research.

One of the findings is that students tend use the course readings first for their course-related research.  This seems a no brainer to me. After all, the faculty is their “first contact” in the courses they take.

The report also suggests the differences between the guides that librarians provided and the strategy employed by the students. “All in all, the librarian approach is one based by thoroughness, while the student approach is based on efficiency.” (page 20.)  This seems to line up nicely with what Roy Tennant wrote many years ago that  “only librarians like to search; everyone else like to find.” (Digital Libraries – Avoiding Unintended Consequences,  http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA156524.html)

As a side note, I’m curious about the time and effort on researches being done in learning students information seeking behavior. Public Services librarians seem to understand this already based on their interaction with the students. Interestingly enough, most of library collection decisions are based on faculty research needs. So, I wonder how the familiarity of the resources affects the faculty’s decision in constructing their course readings and whether it might also affect the student behavior in their information seeking.

All in all, this is their ultimate conclusion:

This is our ultimate conclusion: Todayʼs students are not naïve about sources, systems, and services. They have developed sophisticated information problem-solving strategies that help them to meet their school and everyday needs, as they arise.

The report came up with several recommendations and one of them gave me a pause:

We have come to believe that many students see instructors—not librarians—as coaches on how to consult research. This situation seems to occur whether the faculty may qualify as expert researchers in the area of student research methods, or not. Librarians and faculty should see the librarian-student disconnect as a timely opportunity, especially when it comes to transferring information competencies to students.
We recommend librarians take an active role and initiate the dialogue with faculty to close a divide that may be growing between them and faculty and between them and students—each campus is likely to be different. There are, of course, many ways to initiate this conversation that some libraries may already have in use, such as librarian-faculty roundtables, faculty visits, faculty liaison programs, and customized pathfinders to curriculum, to name but a few. And there is always room for creating new ways to facilitate conversation between faculty and librarians, too. No matter what the means of communication may be, however, librarians need to actively identify opportunities for training faculty as conduits for reaching students with sound and current information-seeking strategies, as it applies to their organizational settings.
Personally, I have no objection with the recommendation above. After all, that’s why we (the librarians) are here for. However, the recommendation above basically takes for granted that narrowing or closing the librarian-student disconnect would actually improve the outcome of the students research. Or, in other words, nowhere in the report indicated that this disconnect bring “harms” to the students outcome. It would be nice to see some kind of assessments on this.

The hidden meaning of “a great degree of flexibility and customization”

Code4Lib mailing list has an interesting discussion about a discovery layer for Primo. This particular discussion piqued my interest not because of the technical content, but for what’s not actually being discussed. Here’s the sentence that intrigued me (italic part is mine):

We use Alma/Primo here at California State University  Sacramento and are finding a great degree of flexibility and customization of the local collections.

Flexibility and customization! I do like this. However, something else nagged me as well. Admit it, most of us are tinkerer. We like the idea that we can customize anything to make sure the relevant information will be displayed properly, with additional bells and whistles if needed. We cherish the idea of “freedom” in this area, where we can basically create a “perfect” user interface without being constrained by the vendor’s product. After all, each library is different and cookie-cutter templates could never satisfy us.

Here lies the hidden meaning of the freedom that we are so wanted: we better know what we’re doing. There will be a time we have to devote a lot of our time for the panning and designing, and making careful considerations we have to work on to make the product work effectively.  Anybody whose work deals with information architecture and/or user experience knows this. Design decision should be based on usability study, data analysis, and users research –understanding how our users would interact with our web presence. Most of us already have data from our web logs; our face-to-face or virtual interactions with users who are attempting to use our web presence gave us indications the pain points of our website; and, if we’re lucky, we already did one or two usability studies of our web presence.

However, when it comes to working on a totally new service with new web presence, do those data and the analysis we did apply to this new design? How do we exactly go about designing a totally new user interface? There is no easy answer to that. It is always a good thing to involve our user from the beginning, getting their input and and trust their opinion. Or create stories of personas (stake holders) and use them at least as a starting point. And this is probably where the paradox are happening. We know our services and collections, and we know our systems. So we design how we present our collections and services based on our previous understandings about our past users, who might or might not still relevant.

[lost my thought here. it might come back later. someday.]

 

#libday6 Friday January 28, 2011

Finally back to work. Throat still feel scratchy a bit, but much better than the last few days.

  • Discussed the possibility of moving to virtual server for our LOCKSS servers. Systems peeps seemed to incline with this option now after they realized that, yes, this is gong to be a perpetual project.
  • My morning meeting was cancelled so I use the time to read an article that has been opened on my browser window for quite sometime: A Review of Argumentation for the Social Semantic Web by Jodi Schneider (@jschneider), Tudor Groza, and Alexandre Passant (@terraces)