Academic journal article LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal

Four Types of Undergraduate Library Users, Based on Their Profile of Library Use, Knowledge and Perceptions

Academic journal article LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal

Four Types of Undergraduate Library Users, Based on Their Profile of Library Use, Knowledge and Perceptions

Article excerpt


Students behave differently during information searching in libraries according to their patterns of library use, knowledge and perceptions. Because of these differences, some students appear to be better than others in using libraries. The reasons are multifaceted and not limited to a single variable or discrete entity. There is a need to identify these variables which affect individual behaviour in libraries. However, there are many different variables to consider such as discipline, gender and academic years of learning that may affect the students' library use. The variables of library use, search skills, knowledge of library resources/services, and perceptions/attitudes towards the library are highly correlated at multiple levels with students in libraries. Identifying these correlations provides a basis for identifying groups of students with similar profiles and needs, so that the library can tailor services and resources for different groups to improve the effectiveness of their library use and learning outcomes.

The objectives of this study were:

1. To identify the principal components or factors underlying undergraduate students' library use, knowledge/skills and perceptions/attitudes;

2. To identify groups and types of undergraduate library users with similar profiles of library use/knowledge/perceptions.

This study focussed on the students' profiles in terms of their information searching behaviour/skills in the libraries and the potential for enhancing their information skills. This study limited the students' library use/knowledge/perception to five categories:

1. library search skills/confidence,

2. familiarity with and use of library resources,

3. familiarity with and use of library services,

4. familiarity with the library organization system, and

5. perception of library searching experience.

Construction and limitation of the five categories of library use/knowledge/perception were based on the authors' professional experience and practical problems we encountered on a day-to-day basis overseeing the use of libraries. Participants in the survey were limited to undergraduate students at the School of Medicine and the School of Social and International Studies at the University of Tsukuba, Japan.


Library Use by Undergraduates and Others

There is a broad spectrum of research studies on library user behaviour which cover a variety of library use activities. Students behave differently during information searches because of their programmes of study (undergraduate or graduate), areas of discipline (medicine, social science, arts, engineering, etc.), academic years (junior or senior), gender (male or female), emotional experiences (certainty or uncertainty) and cognitive context (knowledge and skill, etc.).

Palmer (1991) found a few indications of the differences across discipline lines in the process of information searching among biochemists, entomologists, and statisticians working at an agricultural research station and university medical library. Five specific user groups such as "non-seekers', "wide rangers', "unsettled or self-conscious seekers', "confident collectors' and "hunters' were found by cluster analysis, indicating coherent patterns of differentiation in information search by disciplines. The results appear to show that information search behaviour was highly affected by the discipline areas, but the study focused on discipline areas, not individual use activities. In a discipline context, library use patterns may manifest differences at the surface level, but examination of usage context might show deep differences among individuals even within the discipline context.

Hiller (2002) studied patterns of library use among students from different disciplines. Findings reflected the priorities which students chose. Though the results showed differences among disciplines, they might reflect students' subjective preferences, not their actual use patterns. …

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