So what do users want? Here is a summary:
- Direct links to online content - text and media formats
- Evaluative content, such as summaries/abstracts, tables of contents and excerpts
- Relevant search results
- Item availability information - if the item is available and how to get it
- Simple keyword search with an advanced, guided search option
- Users want to start with a simple keyword search and get relevant results.
Remember when Google just started up and the impact that their relevancy ranking had compared with search engines like Alta Vista and Yahoo! Now that's how everyone experiences the Internet and they want it in our catalogues.
- Catalogues are good when you know what you want.
A bit of detail in the report suggests that catalogues are good when the user is looking for known items but really let people down when they are trying to discover information on a new topic. Random results from a keyword search aren't good enough. If you can't have the full text available online then people expressed a real need for more data to help them choose the good stuff. That included table of contents, summaries and excerpts as well as faceted searching to help them narrow down large result sets from keyword searches.
- If the whole thing isn't available right now online, 'how do I get it?' becomes the most important question.
Assuming the user chooses a library catalogue as a discovery tool and manages to find some worthwhile resource their first preference is to link straight to the full text of the item online. If they can't have direct access there and then the detail around how and when can they get hold of the item becomes paramount.
Does the library industry have enough dollars and/or expertise to develop catalogues that will meet our users expectations? Maybe libraries will not be in the discovery business for much longer? Should we be focussing on the delivery side of the equation? Could/should we outsource the discovery process to the institutions who are doing a better job of it (Google, Amazon, etc.) by making our collection data available to them in return for them sending traffic our way. Should reference services move to the Cloud to meet our users? Is it sustainable for individual libraries to all have their own uniques collections with an individual, self-contained discovery tool?
I see change coming and interesting times ahead.
Your thoughts? Leave a comment...