CIL 2009: What Have We Learned Lately About Academic Library Users

Speakers: Daniel Wendling & Neal K. Kaske, University of Maryland

How should we describe information-seeking behavior?

A little over a third of the students interviewed reported that they use Google in their last course-related search, and it’s about the same across all classes and academic areas. A little over half of the same students surveyed used ResearchPort (federated search – MetaLib), with a similar spread between classes and academic areas, although social sciences clearly use it more than the other areas. (survey tool: PonderMatic – copy of survey form in the conference book).

Their methodology was a combination of focus-group interviews and individual interviews, conducted away from the library to avoid bias. They used a coding sheet to standardize the responses for input into a database.

This survey gathering & analysis tool is pretty cool – I’m beginning to suspect that the presentation is more about it than about the results, which are also rather interesting.

 

Speaker: Ken Varnum

Will students use social bookmarking on a library website?

MTagger is a library-based tagging tool, borrowing concepts from resources like Delicious or social networking sites, and intended to be used to organize academic bookmarks. In the long term, the hope is that this will create research guides in addition to those supported by the librarians, and to improve the findability of the library’s resources.

Behind the scenes, they have preserved the concept of collections, which results in users finding similar items more easily. This is different from the commercial tagging tools that are not library-focused. Most tagging systems are tagger-centric (librarians are the exception). As a result, tag clouds are less informative, since most of the tags are individualized and there isn’t enough overlap to make them more visible.

From usability interviews, they found that personal motivations are stronger than social motivations, and that they wanted to have the tags displays alongside traditional search results. They don’t know why, but many users perceived tagging to be a librarian thing and not something they can do themselves.

One other thing that stood out in the usability interviews was the issue of privacy. Access is limited to network login, which has its benefits (your tags and you) and its problems (inappropriate terminology, information living in the system beyond your tenure etc.).

They are redesigning the website to focus on outcomes (personal motivation) rather than on tagging as such.

quechup? no, thanks.

New social networking site gives everyone the how-to for bad PR.

Last week, I got an invitation to join Quechup, a new social networking site, from someone I’m pretty sure doesn’t want to network with me. Unfortunately, this person uses Gmail, which adds all new email addresses to the contacts list, whether you want it to or not. Since this person had emailed me in the past, my email address was still in their contacts list.

The problem with Quechup is that during the account creation process for new users, they are asked to give permission for Quechup to view their email address books in order to see if any of their contacts are already on Quechup. What most people seem to miss is the fine print that indicates Quechup will be spamming everyone in the new user’s contact list who is not already on Quechup.

I have two theories about why they chose to market their site this way. The first is benign, and assumes that someone at Quechup thought that users would read the text that indicates Quechup would be sending non-members email invitations.

quechup

The second theory is that someone at Quechup expected that few would read the text closely, and that it would be a simple and effective way of collecting a large number of active email addresses.

I suspect that the truth may be somewhere in between those two theories. Social networking sites do not exist out of the goodness of some programmer’s heart. They exist to gather information about you and your friends, and to use that information to make money off of you. Quechup is no different in that than sites like MySpace and Facebook. However, unlike other sites, Quechup is quickly getting a bad reputation for mass emailing, and that will be a tricky spot to pull themselves out of.

Be careful out there. Even if you don’t read the Privacy Policy or Conditions of Use before signing up on a new site, do at least read the text presented on the signup page. And please, stop sending me Quechup invitations.