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User Success in the Library Catalog. Margo. Cal State LA. Fall 2000: 19,593 students (13,808 FTES) 2/3 are 1 st generation to receive a college degree 2/3 do not speak English as their 1 st language or in their homes. Library Exit Survey. Week 6

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User success in the library catalog l.jpg

User Success in the Library Catalog


Cal state la l.jpg

Cal State LA

  • Fall 2000: 19,593 students (13,808 FTES)

  • 2/3 are 1st generation to receive a college degree

  • 2/3 do not speak English as their 1st language or in their homes

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Library Exit Survey

Week 6

Reaction to specific requests is that we have what they are requesting. Users don’t know how to use the catalog.

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Learning Outcomes

Define the research topic.

  • Formulating a research question.

  • Selecting, refining/narrowing, a topic.

  • Selecting search terms (keywords).  

    Determine the information requirements for the research question.

  • Controlled vocabulary

    Locate and retrieve relevant information.

  • Ask for assistance at the Reference Desk.

  • Refine vocabulary terms used.

  • How to use the library catalog (author/title/keyword/subject restrictions).

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  • Weeks 6-10 of

    • Summer 2000 Quarter

    • Fall 2000 Quarter

    • Winter 2001 Quarter

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Types of Searches

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Typical User Problems with OPAC

  • Tend to search subjects with low success

  • Reluctant to browse too many records

    • (>30 or 100?)

  • Inappropriate vocabulary

  • Spelling and typographical errors

  • Bibliographic rules

  • Boolean logic

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Successful Searches (1-99 hits)

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Typographical errors




Subject concept

Cataloging rules

Title search in keyword

Subject heading syntax

Database search

Author search



Types of Problems with No Hits

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Unsuccessful Keyword Searches

  • 15%  30% had 100 or more hits

  • 4%  0% had no hits

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(The reactions of young adult women)

abusive child (Los Angeles)

american japanesse women


Mexican education

Causes of ectasy (drug)

Child development (government document)

City map monterey park

Critical thinking()



Csla thesis physical education


Frankenstein and Dis(re)membered identity

Government assistance in the united states and w…

History museum in los angeles

Improve public education

Indians of north america – laguna


Introduction to the Primates (Book Review)

Sample Keyword Problems

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Keyword Problems

  • Abbreviations (AIDS)

  • No space between words

  • Alternate word endings (mexican education)

  • Journal titles, journal abbreviations & ISSNs

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Typical problems

  • Misspellings and typos 20% (CSULA 48%)

  • Items not held 39%

  • Native speakers more likely to

    • use plural word forms

    • Experiment with synonyms and alternative words

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Unsuccessful Subject Searching

  • Approx. 50% retrieve no hits

  • 18-20% retrieve more than 100

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adult attachment and effect on parenting


Affirmative action

Conflict theory

Emotions and film

Pasadena history

Prop 21

Racism in the media

Ritual masks

Stereotypes fairy tales

Why people use drugs

Theories of rape

Shelter of battled women

Victorian literature and culture

Women stereotypes in media

Woody woodpecker

Writing a thesis

Wrongful termination

Youth social promotion

Sample Subject Searches with no Hits

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Subject Searching

  • Frequent use of subject search (at least since 1983)

  • Some decrease in SU to KW

  • Controlled vocabulary consistently a problem (1993)

  • Too broad

  • Too narrow

  • Users typically relate to what they know

  • Multiple strategies/alternatives a problem

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1993 Recommendations (Wallace)

  • Spell checker

  • Natural language

  • Natural language linked to LCSH

  • Tutorial when no hits

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1997 Recommendations (Hildreth)

  • Natural language input

  • Relevance ranked output

  • Hypertext

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Technical Issues for Consideration

  • Spell checker

  • No hits  dictionary/thesaurus/encyclopedia

  • No hits in SU  KW search automatically

  • PubMed type searching that automatically checks words for subject heading and uses both keyword and subject

  • Automatic help or message to ask for help with no hits?

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Collaborative instruction with content instructors for vocabulary and concept development

Subject vs. keyword


Spelling, plurals, abbreviations

Selecting, refining/ narrowing, a topic.

Selecting search terms (keywords).  

Controlled vocabulary

Refine vocabulary terms used.

How to use the library catalog (author/title/ keyword/subject restrictions).

Instructional Issues for Consideration

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