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Do students want a One-stop-shop to help them navigate their way around the maze of library resources? A Usability Study looking at the beta version of Summon, the new library search engine at the University of Huddersfield

By Martin Philip


Background: This study came about due to the researchers interest in the issues surrounding one-stop-shops in academic libraries. It was also heavily influenced by his employer, the University of Huddersfield, and their recent purchase of Summon, described by Serial Solutions, the company who developed it, as a web-scale resource discovery service. There is much written about library search engines, however there is a lack of usability-like studies focused on qualitative research, conducted on one-stop-shops particularly in UK academic libraries.\ud \ud \ud Aims: This study aimed to investigate if students want a one-stop-shop to navigate library resources, with a particular focus on the beta launch of Summon. The aim was to compare the findings generated by this research with the current literature on one-stop-shops.\ud \ud \ud Methods: The study took a mixed methods approach and was pragmatic in the implementation of the methodology thus focus groups with three distinct elements were conducted. A questionnaire was developed, based on research conducted at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, to find out participants existing searching habits. A search task, inspired by usability tests, was conducted, where participants were observed using Summon without instruction. Group discussions concluded the focus group, which aimed to try and determine what participants thought of Summon, as a cutting-edge, one-stop-shop. A total of thirty-three students, all from the University of Huddersfield, took part in this study.\ud \ud \ud Results: The study found that most participants, when searching for academic information, adopt information-seeking behaviour that mirrors the way they use web search engines. When observed using Summon and when given the opportunity to feedback in the group discussion, most participants found it to be easy, intuitive, and to be very quick at retrieving lots of results. There was, however, slight reservation from participants wanting to conduct a more advanced level of searching and during this study there was little and often no use of Summons’ additional features.\ud \ud \ud Conclusions: The findings from this study, albeit a snapshot of participants using Summon, along with much of the literature, suggest that one-stop-shops, as a way of accessing academic library resources, are here to stay. This study shows, and the fact that more universities are starting to sign up as customers, that the participants like Summon and that it seems to provide them with what they need for their academic research. Future work could focus on issues surrounding one-stop-shops and information literacy

Topics: LB2300, ZA4050
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