Information-Seeking Behavior of Basic Science Researchers: Implications for Library Services**

By Haines, Laura L.; Light, Jeanene et al. | Journal of the Medical Library Association, January 2010 | Go to article overview

Information-Seeking Behavior of Basic Science Researchers: Implications for Library Services**


Haines, Laura L., Light, Jeanene, O'Malley, Donna, Delwiche, Frances A., Journal of the Medical Library Association


Objectives: This study examined the information-seeking behaviors of basic science researchers to inform the development of customized library services.

Methods: A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews was conducted on a sample of basic science researchers employed at a university medical school.

Results: The basic science researchers used a variety of information resources ranging from popular Internet search engines to highly technical databases. They generally relied on basic keyword searching, using the simplest interface of a database or search engine. They were highly collegial, interacting primarily with coworkers in their laboratories and colleagues employed at other institutions. They made little use of traditional library services and instead performed many traditional library functions internally.

Conclusions: Although the basic science researchers expressed a positive attitude toward the library, they did not view its resources or services as integral to their work. To maximize their use by researchers, library resources must be accessible via departmental websites. Use of library services may be increased by cultivating relationships with key departmental administrative personnel. Despite their self-sufficiency, subjects expressed a desire for centralized information about ongoing research on campus and shared resources, suggesting a role for the library in creating and managing an institutional repository.

INTRODUCTION

In fall 2005, Dana Medical Library at the University of Vermont (UVM) established a formal liaison program to serve patrons in the college of medicine (COM), college of nursing and health sciences, and its primary teaching hospital, Fletcher Allen Health Care (FAHC). The program involved assigning academic departments and programs to specific librarians to provide instruction, conduct literature searches, advocate for collection needs, and serve as a conduit for communication between the library and its patrons. After two years, distinct differences in the level of response to the liaisons' efforts among the various departments in the COM became apparent. From the first year to the second year of the liaison program, interactions between the library and the clinical departments increased by over 50%, whereas the number of interactions between the library and basic science departments remained the same. Seeking an explanation for the different responses, the librarians realized that their knowledge of the information needs and behaviors of researchers in the basic science departments was minimal at best.

Because the library already had ample data about use of its resources through journal use studies and circulation statistics, a decision was made to focus instead on the information-seeking behavior of this population and how it applies to library services. A team of four librarians was formed to study the unique information-seeking habits of basic science researchers in the UVM College of Medicine, with the ultimate goal of designing a suite of library services that would better meet their needs. In particular, the team sought to determine how faculty researchers in the basic sciences find the information they need and what library services are useful to them.

In his 2002 survey of research on informationseeking behavior, Case reported that "Information seeking is a topic that has been written about in over 10,000 documents from several distinct disciplines" [I]. Examining the literature since 2000, the team discovered several behavior studies of academic researchers, including physical scientists, life scientists, social scientists, and humanists [2-4]. Many other studies have been published that focus on the information-seeking behavior of health care practitioners in a wide range of occupations and settings [5-27]. However, "Researchers and clinicians, even those in the same college, often have very different information needs," with clinicians requiring quick, concise information and researchers requiring more in-depth information [28]. …

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