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Understanding User Needs in an Online Environment: What We Can Learn from Electronic Reference Questions. Renae Barger, MLIS Reference Librarian/Document Delivery Coordinator Health Sciences Library System, University of Pittsburgh Melissa Ratajeski, MLIS.

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Understanding User Needs in an Online Environment:What We Can Learn from Electronic Reference Questions

Renae Barger, MLIS

Reference Librarian/Document Delivery Coordinator

Health Sciences Library System, University of Pittsburgh

Melissa Ratajeski, MLIS

health sciences library system university of pittsburgh
Health Sciences Library System, University of Pittsburgh
  • Health Sciences Library System (HSLS)
    • Four Libraries
      • 1 academic
      • 3 hospital
  • Six Schools of the Health Sciences
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
    • 19 hospitals
hsl online
HSL Online
  • HSL Online
    • 75+ databases
    • 3100+ electronic journals
    • 4500+ electronic books
objectives
Objectives
  • Analyze the information needs and the challenges of remote users using HSLS electronic resources.
  • Develop strategies to better serve remote users.
methodology
Methodology
  • 12-month timeframe
    • February 2004 – January 2005
  • 6 broad categories:
  • Analysis
  • Basic reference
  • Access
  • Advanced reference
  • Technical
  • Non-resource
  • Departmental
website based vs ovid based questions
513 submissions = 565 questions

Website based feature - 437 submissions, 485 questions

Ovid based feature - 76 submissions, 80 questions

Website Based vs. Ovid Based Questions
discussion
Website based questions:

Basic

Access

Advanced

Non-resource

Departmental

Technical

Ovid based questions:

Basic

Technical

Advanced

Access

Discussion
website based basic reference 44 of total website based questions
Website Based – Basic Reference44% of Total Website Based Questions
  • 29% - Users know exactly what they want.
    • Majority want online full-text.
  • 6% - Users need a simple search to satisfy an information need.
  • 5% - Users know part of a citation.
  • 2% - Cited reference searching
  • 1% - Choosing a database
  • 1% - Finding journal impact factors
website based access 31 of total website based questions
Website Based – Access31% of Total Website Based Questions
  • 10% - General information on obtaining HSLS remote access
  • 9% - Electronic journal or electronic book connection problems
  • 9% - Forgotten HSLS account password
  • 3% - UpToDate remote access
website based advanced 9 of total website based questions
Website Based – Advanced9% of Total Website Based Questions
  • Still require reference assistance to formulate a search strategy with multiple concepts or databases.
    • “What books are available on social skills groups for children ages 5-12 with behavior disorders and ADHD?”
    • “Are there journals or books on radiation hazards from mining of radioactive rocks that could lead to DNA damage?”
website based non resource 7 of total website based questions
Website Based – Non-resource7% of Total Website Based Questions
  • Hours, policies, classes, contact information or subject guides
    • “I would like to attend the searching databases classes in January. Do I need to sign up?”
    • “Can I recall a book online that has been checked out?”
website based departmental 6 of total website based questions
Website Based – Departmental6% of Total Website Based Questions
  • 5% - For acquisitions
    • Majority request online full-text
  • 1% - For interlibrary loan
website based technical 3 of total website based questions
Website Based – Technical3% of Total Website Based Questions
  • 1% - Using Endnote with Ovid
  • <1% - Auto alerts or limits in Ovid
  • <1% - Full-text in MDConsult
  • <1% - Auto alerts in Scopus
  • <1% - Book marking HSLS resources page
ovid based basic reference 49 of total ovid based questions
Ovid Based – Basic Reference49% of Total Ovid Based Questions
  • 40% - Users know exactly what they want.
    • Complete article citation is given.
    • Majority want online full-text.
  • 8% - Users have a specific article in mind.
    • Part of the citation is known.
  • 1% - Unrelated to an Ovid search
ovid based technical 26 of total ovid based questions
Ovid Based – Technical26% of Total Ovid Based Questions
  • 18% - Using limits, auto alerts, and reference manager
  • 4% - Getting Ovid results into Endnote
  • 4% - Ovid technical problem
ovid based advanced 19 of total ovid based questions
Ovid Based – Advanced19% of Total Ovid Based Questions
  • Still require reference assistance to formulate a search strategy with multiple concepts.
    • “I am seeking articles that list bacteria that produce any form of vitamin K….”
    • “ I am trying to find literature that validates the benefits of ambulation in hospitalized patients
ovid based access 6 of total ovid based questions
Ovid Based – Access6% of Total Ovid Based Questions
  • 4% - General help accessing Ovid databases remotely.
  • 1% – Electronic journal connection problems
  • 1% – Remote access to a non-Ovid database
trends and strategies
Trends and Strategies
  • 29% Website, 40% Ovid - Users know exactly what they want.
    • HSLS online instruction group
    • Knowledge base of most frequently asked questions
  • 19% Website – Users want a remote access account or cannot remember their HSLS remote access account password.
    • Online system to create HSLS accounts
    • Online system to retrieve forgotten passwords
trends and strategies continued
Trends and Strategies Continued
  • 9% Website, 19% Ovid – Users need advanced reference assistance.
    • These require a librarian
  • Interactive Design Working Group
    • Surveys and focus groups to gather, test, and analyze user data to enhance and shape HSLS web based products
conclusions
Conclusions
  • Electronic reference questions may be used to indicate areas where users are having difficulties while using the library in an online environment.
  • HSLS has either implemented, or is in the process of developing tools to address such areas.

Renae Barger

Health Sciences Library System

University of Pittsburgh

rbarger@pitt.edu