User Behavior in a Non-Mediated Document Delivery Environment: The Direct Doc Pilot Project at Arizona State

By Walters, Sheila | Computers in Libraries, October 1995 | Go to article overview

User Behavior in a Non-Mediated Document Delivery Environment: The Direct Doc Pilot Project at Arizona State


Walters, Sheila, Computers in Libraries


The Direct Doc Pilot Project was a user behavior study conducted at Arizona State University to determine how faculty would use nonmediated document delivery services in research activities. The project was funded from the library's materials budget with monies gleaned from serial cancellations. We hoped the project would determine if user-directed ordering with rapid delivery direct to the end user was adequate for alternative access to serials not held by the library.

The project ran from March-December 1994. It was coordinated by Charles Brownson, the humanities coordinator in collection development, and myself, Sheila Walters, head of Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery (ILL/DDS). Analysis of the data obtained is still ongoing, but preliminary results led to considerable modification before making Direct Doc services available to the entire faculty during the 1995/96 academic year. This article highlights the findings of the pilot project and spotlights the changes.

A goal of the pilot project was to have at least 100 faculty actively involved throughout the venture. We expected that some faculty would drop out as research projects were completed, and others would join as new research began. The only criteria were that the volunteers be actively involved in a research project, have access to fax equipment and an ASU e-mail account, and be willing to attend a one-hour orientation and to record bibliographic searching and document ordering activity. A total of 160 faculty from various disciplines volunteered (see Figure 1). Orientations were scheduled on various days and times during the project. Twenty-nine faculty (18 percent) never found time to attend, although most continued to express interest in getting started.

Available Databases

Faculty could use Carl UnCover, OCLC FirstSearch databases, and Inside Information on the Research Libraries Group (RLG) Eureka/CitaDel system. Participants were provided with account numbers and passwords at the orientation and advised on how to log activity. We gave instructions on how to access each database by Telnet, as well as how to log on and off. A handout was provided that repeated the brief instructions given in the orientation. The scope of the databases was covered, but "how-to" instruction was purposely brief since the three systems were designed for nonmediated searching. Besides being menu-driven, each vendor provides online assistance and customer service by telephone and/or e-mail. Faculty were expected to follow up on all problems except billing errors (they were referred to ILL/DDS to resolve). Technical difficulties with computer equipment were referred to the university's Information Technology staff.

So the faculty were on their own. Except for paying the bills and communicating changes via an e-mail distribution list, the library was out of the picture after the orientation. (An exception involved documents delivered via Ariel, a software product developed by RLG to transmit documents over the Internet. Documents from Ariel were received in ILL/DDS and delivered to faculty offices by Library Express, the ASU Libraries' on-campus document delivery service.)

Complaints and compliments related to accessing, searching, or ordering from the various databases were as follows:

UnCover: Initial access to UnCover was considered cumbersome by some because they had to use multiple passwords and set up personal profiles. Users tended to confuse "access," "account," and "personal profile" passwords. Therefore, future orientations will include setting up a profile.

UnCover has been available on the University Libraries Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) for several years, and UnCover search commands are identical to those used in the ASU Libraries General Catalog, so searching was easy for most faculty. Familiarity tended to make UnCover the overall first choice for searching. General satisfaction with UnCover's document delivery service made it the service of choice for most participants throughout the project. …

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