Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Some additional notes on the Michigan U. Web Survey.

Here is the brief post that leads to this. The survey is here.

These are mostly some notes of things that caught my eye or just made me think a bit:

  • The survey authors do point out that the survey is not representative of the UM Library's base. This is due to the fact the survey was not evenly promoted across all of their library websites (5). What this tells me is that we are looking at a limited sample. I mean, it will be a limited sample anyways, but this was limited by what did get promoted.
  • "The top activities as ranked by average response (in descending order): email, social networking, IM, reading/using wikis, reading blogs. The bottom five as ranked by average response: create podcasts, write book reviews, edit wiki, write own blog, and social bookmarking" (7). The authors label the first five activities as "web 1.0" tools. I am not quite clear on the label, but they say that the more the activity is 2.0, the less the respondents did it (7). I thought something like social networking (if it is meant as using something like MySpace) was a 2.0 activity. The authors at this point suggest asking about web enabled mobile devices and use of applications like Google Docs. The basis for this is that if they are more used, the library could then move on in that direction, doing things like offering a calendar for events that one could subscribe to. Actually, that sounds like an intriguing idea.
  • On purpose to use the library, "using the Internet had the most 'daily' [used] answers. . . " (9). This is not terribly surprising in my estimation. We pretty much see this in our library on a daily basis. It's using the Internet, and often for non-academic things like checking the MySpace. Now before anyone jumps, I will say that I don't particularly care what the students do online; it's their tuition, so they get to use it as they wish as long as it's not for anything illegal. However, the observation is that a good amount of time is devoted to the social tools like MySpace rather than research or other academic endeavor. Take it with a grain of salt.
  • Question 10 made me pause a bit. They found that "respondents are overwhelmingly self-taught. . ." (12). As much faith as I have in people being able to learn, it did make me pause for a moment. The authors also argue that BI should not be relied on to get people to use the web tools the library offers. I am not ready to scrap BI. I am hoping the authors meant more like BI should not be the only method, to which I would agree. We should be using any means at our disposal to educate our users. I would work on promoting BI more and look at building a broader context for information literacy beyond just basic one-shots. We also need to do more advertising of services we offer. You can have the most user-friendly research portal in the world. It does no good if no one uses it or knows about it. Build the tool and promote it.
  • I found interesting that the authors were careful to make a distinction in questions between asking what users thought the library had and what they have actually used. Vocabulary is always a challenge.
  • I just found this analysis item interesting: "The library website is perceived as being slightly more trustworthy, accurate, reliable, and helpful than web search engines but is not considered as easy to use or as convenient. Difficulty using library resources is a constant theme in the free-text responses at the end of the survey. Also, people feel more strongly about search engines being easy to use and convenient as compared to their strength in feeling of the other four attributes" (16). We are here in the process of redesigning our website. We have conducted two focus groups, and we are in the middle of redesign. This looks like something to keep in mind as we make progress in trying to make the new site user-friendly.
  • "Patrons are more willing to read online than expected but definitely prefer to print electronic journal articles" (17). Actually, that would describe me. I find a lot of articles via online tools, but I do print them out to read them.
  • "Only three respondents selected the option 'Download to a mobile device to read.' We hypothesize that our patrons have yet to embrace this technology and/or that content providers do not make mobile reading easy enough" (17). This tells me that not everyone has a mobile device capable of downloading or displaying that content. The reason this caught my eye is because this is contrary to what many dwellers of Mount Ubertech would have us believe that there is some massive demand for us to provide stuff on mobile devices. That may be the case some day down the road, but it is not today or the day after. Right now, it's pretty much the geeks and early adopters who have those devices. The mainstream is not there yet, which means ROI on this is pretty low, if we are again thinking in business model terms.
  • "Although there is great interest in 'Library 2.0' technologies among librarians, the concepts are still not widely understood by survey respondents--at least, not when librarians use our own terminology to describe them" (19). This also caught my eye. One thing: at times I think librarians are way more enthusiastic about the whole L2 thing than the users actually are. Maybe a finding like this might temper some overzealousness (wishful thinking on my part). But note the statement goes on to say that the lack of understanding can come from our own terms. Something we then need to work on. Then again, just because they know what some 2.0 tech is, it does not follow automatically that they want to use it, or that they want libraries to offer it or have a presence there. Just a thought. In my case, just because I am somewhat aware of 2.0 techs (I would not call myself an expert by any stretch of imagination on any 2.0 thing), it does not mean I go and embrace every thing out there.
  • I liked this idea from one of the verbatim responses at the end of the survey. I think it may be something we could try here in time: "Maybe 'what's new at the library' sessions, for use expert users who maybe aren't up to speed with the niftiest and newest search tools, or a web page showcasing new features and databases" (26).
Anyhow, just this humble librarian's two cents.

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