ER&L 2015 – Discovery Systems: Building a Better User Experience

photo by lecates

Speakers: Michael Fernandez, University of Mary Washington; Kirsten Ostergaard, Montana State University; Alex Homanchuk, OCAD University
Moderator: Kelsey Brett, University of Houston

Specialized studio art and design programs. Became a university in 2002, which meant the library needed to expand to support liberal arts programming. The had limited use of a limited number of resources and wanted to improve the visibility and exposure of the other parts of their collections.


Mid-sized liberal arts institution that is primarily undergraduate. The students want something convenient and easy to use, and they aren’t concerned with where the content is coming from. The library wanted to expose the depth of their collections.

Strong engineering and agriculture programs. Migrated to Primo from Summon recently. They had chosen Summon a few years ago for similar reasons noted by the other panelists. The decision to move was in part due to a statewide consortia, and this had some to do with the University of Montana’s decision.

They looked at how well their resources were represented in the central index. They had a lot of help from other Ontario institutions by learning from their experiences. There was also a provincial RFI from a few years ago to help inform them. They were already using the KB that would power the discovery service, so it was easier to implement. Reference staff strongly favored one particular solution, in part due to some of the features unique to it.

They began implementing in late January and planned a soft launch for March, which they felt was enough time for staff training (both back and front end). It was slightly rough start because they implemented with Summon 2, and in the midst of this ProQuest also moved to a new ticketing system.

They did trials. They looked at costs, including setup fees and rate increases and potential discounts. They looked at content coverage and gaps. They looked at the functionality of the user interface and search relevancy for general and known item resources. They looked at the systems aspects, including ILS integration and other systems via API, and the frequency and timeliness of catalog updates.

They opted to not implement the federated searching widgets in EDS to search the ProQuest content. Instead, they use the database recommender to direct students to relevant, non-EBSCO databases.

They wanted similar usability to what they had in Summon, and similar coverage. The timeline for implementation was longer than they initially planned, in part due to the consortial setup and decisions about how content would be displayed at different institutions. This gets complicated with ebook licenses that are for specific institutions only. Had to remove deduplication of records, which makes for slightly messy search results, but the default search is only for local content.

They had to migrate their eresources to a new KB, and the collections don’t always match up. They are conducting an audit of the data. They still have 360 Core while they are migrating to SFX.

The implementation team included representatives from across the library, which helped for getting buy-in. Feedback responsiveness was important, too. Staff and faculty comments influenced their decisions about user interface options. Instruction librarians vigorously promoted it, particularly in the first year courses.

Similar to the previous speaker’s experience.

They wanted to make sure the students were comfortable with the familiar, but also market the new/different functionality and features of Primo. They promoted them through the newsletter, table tents, library homepage, press release, and Friends of the Library newsletter.

Launched a web survey to get user feedback. The reception has been favorable, with the predictable issues. They’ve seen a bump in the use of their materials in general, but a decline in the multi-disciplinary databases. The latter is due in part to a lower priority of those resources in the rankings and a lack of IEDL for that content.

They did surveys of the staff and student assistants during the trials. The students indicated that there is a learning curve for the discovery systems, and they were using the facets. They also use Google Analytics to analyze usage and also determine which days are lower use for the catalog update.

There hasn’t been any feedback from the website form. Staff report errors. They have done some user testing in the library of known item and general searches. They are working on the branding to take Ex Libris out and put more MSU.

ER&L 2013: Ebooks — Their Use and Acceptance by Undergraduates and Faculty

“Kali, Avatar of the eBook” by Javier Candeira

Speaker: Deborah Lenares, Wellesley College

Libraries have been relatively quietly collecting ebooks for years, but it wasn’t until the Kindle came out that public interest in ebooks was aroused. Users exposure and expectations for ebooks has been raised, with notable impact on academic libraries. From 2010-2011, the number of ebooks in academic libraries doubled.

Wellesley is platform agnostic — they look for the best deal with the best content. Locally, they have seen an overall increase in unique titles viewed, a dramatic increase in pages viewed, a modest decrease in pages printed, and a dramatic increase in downloads.

In February 2012, they sent a survey to all of their users, with incentives (iPad, gift cards, etc.) and a platform (Zoomerang) provided by Springer. They had a 57% response rate (likely iPad-influenced), and 71% have used ebooks (51% used ebooks from the Wellesley College Library). If the survey respondent had not used ebooks, they were skipped to the end of the survey, because they were only interested in data from those who have used ebooks.

A high percent of the non-library ebooks were from free sources like Google Books, Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, etc. Most of the respondents ranked search within the text and offline reading or download to device among the most important functionality aspects, even higher than printing.

Most of the faculty respondents found ebooks to be an acceptable option, but prefer to use print. Fewer students found ebooks an acceptable option, and preferred print more than faculty. There is a reason that will be aparent later in the talk.

The sciences preferred ebooks more than other areas, and found them generally more acceptable than other areas, but the difference is slight. Nearly all faculty who used ebooks would continue to, ranging from preferring them to reluctant acceptance.

Whether they love or hate ebooks, most users skimmed/search and read a small number of consecutive pages or a full chapter. However, ebooks haters almost never read an entire book, and most of the others infrequently did so. Nearly everyone read ebooks on a computer/laptop. Ebook lovers used devices, and ebook haters were more likely to have printed it out. Most would prefer to not use their computer/laptop, and the ebook lovers would rather use their devices.

Faculty are more likely to own or plan to purchase a device than students, which may be why faculty find ebooks more acceptable than students. Maybe providing devices to them would be helpful?

For further research:

  • How does the robustness of ebook collections effect use and attitudes?
  • Is there a correlation between tablet/device use and attitudes?
  • Are attitudes toward shared ebooks (library) different from attitudes toward personal ebooks?

The full text of the white paper is available from Springer.

NASIG 2012: Why the Internet is More Attractive Than the Library

Speaker: Dr. Lynn Silipigni Connaway, OCLC

Students, particularly undergraduates, find Google search results to make more sense than library database search results. In the past, these kinds of users had to work around our services, but now we need to make our resources fit their workflow.

Connaway has tried to compare 12 different user behavior studies in the UK and the US to draw some broad conclusions, and this has informed her talk today.

Convenience is number one, and it changes. Context and situation are very important, and we need to remember that when asking questions about our users. Sometimes they just want the answer, not instruction on how to do the research.

Most people power browse these days: scan small chunks of information, view first few pages, no real reading. They combine this with squirreling — short, basic searches and saving the content for later use.

Students prefer keyword searches. This is supported by looking at the kinds of terms used in the search. Experts use broad terms to cover all possible indexing, novices use specific terms. So why do we keep trying to get them to use the “advance” search in our resources?

Students are confident with information discovery tools. They mainly use their common sense for determining the credibility of a site. If a site appears to have put some time into the presentation, then they are more likely to believe it.

Students are frustrated with navigating library websites, the inconvenience of communicating with librarians face to face, and they tend to associate libraries only with books, not with other information. They don’t recognize that the library is who is providing them with access to online content like JSTOR and the things they find in Google Scholar.

Students and faculty often don’t realize they can ask a question of a librarian in person because we look “busy” staring at our screens at the desk.

Researchers don’t understand copyright, or what they have signed away. They tend to be self-taught in discovery, picking up the same patterns as their graduate professors. Sometimes they rely on the students to tell them about newer ways of finding information.

Researchers get frustrated with the lack of access to electronic backfiles of journals, discovering non-English content, and unavailable content in search results (dead links, access limitation). Humanities researchers feel like there is a lack of good, specialized search engines for them (mostly for science). They get frustrated when they go to the library because of poor usability (i.e. signs) and a lack of integration between resources.

Access is more important than discovery. They want a seamless transition from discovery to access, without a bunch of authentication barriers.

We should be improving our OPACs. Take a look at Trove and Westerville Public Library. We need to think more like startups.

tl;dr – everything you’ve heard or read about what our users really do and really need, but we still haven’t addressed in the tools and services we offer to them

ER&L 2012 – Between Physical and Digital: Understanding Cross-Channel User Experiences

UX Brighton 2011 - Andrea Resmini
photo by Katariina Järvinen

speaker: Andrea Resmini

He starts with a brief description of the movie The Name of the Rose, which is a bit of a medieval murder mystery involving a monastery library. The “library” is actually a labyrinth, but only in the movie. (The book is a little different.)

The letters on the arches represent the names of the places in the world, and are placed in the library where they would be in the world as it relates to Europe. They didn’t exactly replicate the world, but they ordered it like good librarians.

If you don’t understand the organizational system, it’s just a labyrinth. The movie had to change this because it wouldn’t work to have room after room of books covering the walls. We have to see the labyrinth to be able to participate in the experience, which can be different depending on the medium (book or movie).

Before computers, we relied on experts (people), books, and mentors to learn. With computers, we have access to all of them, at any time. We are constantly connected (if we choose) to streams of data, and the access points are more and more portable.

“Cyberspace is not a place you go to but rather a layer tightly integrated into the world around us.” –Institute for the Future

This is not the future. It’s here now. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare… our phones and mobile devices connect us.

Think about how you might send a message? Email, text, handwritten, smoke signals, ouija… ti’s the same task, but with many different mediums.

What if someone is looking for a book? They could go to the circ desk, but that’s becoming less common. They could go to a virtual bookshelf for the library. Or they could go to a competitor like Amazon. They could do this on a mobile phone. Or they could just start looking on the shelves themselves, whether they understand the classification/organization or not. The only thing that matters is the book. They don’t want to fight with mobile interfaces, search results in the millions, or creepy library stacks. They just want the book, when they want it, and how they want it.

The library is a channel, as is the labeling, circ desk, website, mobile interface, etc. Unfortunately, they don’t work together. We have silos of channels, not just silos of information.

Think about a bank. You can talk to the call center employee — they can’t help you if it’s not a part of their scripted routines. You can’t start an online process and finish it in a physical space (i.e. online banking then local branch).

Entertainment now uses many channels to reach consumers. If you really want to understand the second and third Matrix movies, you have to be familiar with the accessory channels of information (comic books, video games, etc.). In cross-channel experiences, users constantly move between channels, and will not stay in any single one of them from start to finish.

More companies, like clothing stores, are breaking down the barriers to flow between their physical and virtual stores. You can shop on line and return items to the physical store, for example.


  1. Information architectures are becoming open ecologies: no artifacts stand alone — they are all apart of the user experience
  2. users are becoming intermediaries: participants in these ecosystems actively produce and re-mediate content and meaning
  3. static becomes dynamic: ecologies are perpetually unfinished, always changing, always open to further refinement and manipulation
  4. dynamic becomes hybrid: the boundaries separating media, channels, and genres get thinner
  5. horizontal prevails over vertical: intermediaries push for spontaneity, ephemeral structures of meaning and constant change
  6. products are becoming experiences: focus shifts from how to design single items to how to design experiences spanning multiple steps
  7. experiences become cross-channel experiences: experiences bridge multiple connected media, devices and environments into ubiquitous ecologies