NFAIS: Studying Academic User Behavior

By Mulvihill, Amanda | Information Today, June 2011 | Go to article overview

NFAIS: Studying Academic User Behavior


Mulvihill, Amanda, Information Today


Countless resources are housed in classrooms and libraries, but they are worthless unless students actually use them. With rapidly evolving technology and a range of digital literacy, it's essential for research librarians and professors to pay attention to which resources students use and why. What resources would students and faculty prefer to use that aren't currently offered? How can staff encourage students and faculty to use resources outside of their comfort zones?

With these user-centric questions in mind, more than 30 librarians, professors, project managers, and information professionals congregated at the NFAIS (National Federation of Advanced Information Services) workshop on Information Access and Usage Behavior in Today's Academic Environment at the Hub Cira Centre in Philadelphia on April 15. With even more participants attending virtually, the speakers and attendees discussed different innovations and approaches to discovery in academia, sharing experiences from campuses across the country.

The first step in providing effective resources is to understand exactly what your users expect from them.

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Users require different resources and develop different research habits depending on their academic levels and disciplines. Cody Hanson of the University of Minnesota pointed out that users recognize "little distinction between discovery and delivery" and often expect immediacy in research, so they may not use resources such as ILL. "For a novice user who needs something in their hands right now," he says, "it may be more important to deliver them something than to deliver them the very best thing." Carol Tenopir of the University of Tennessee echoed Hanson's point, saying that sometimes speed, not depth of research, takes priority.

In the teaching sphere, professors are turning toward advanced learning management systems (LMSs), which enable classes to collaborate in off-hours, or they can actually become the classroom in some cases. With more than 20,000 students, Drexel University relies on distance learning, online, and hybrid classes, according to Michael Scheuermann of Drexel. Its LMS needs to be supported across several different platforms in order to be accessible by every student.

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