Bringing in the Experts: Library Research Guide Usability Testing in a Computer Science Class

  • Laura Cobus-Kuo Ithaca College Library Ithaca, New York, United States of America
  • Ron Gilmour Ithaca College Library Ithaca, New York, United States of America
  • Paul Dickson Department of Computer Science Ithaca College Ithaca, New York, United States of America
Keywords: research guides, usability, qualitative research, collaboration, best practices, web design, ebp

Abstract

Objective – We sought to develop best practices for creating online research guides in an academic library. Methods – We performed usability tests of particular library research guides in order to determine how to improve them. Students in a Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) class (n=20) participated in the studies both as subjects of the tests and as evaluators of the results. The students were each interviewed and then asked to review the interviews recorded of four other classmates. Based on their own experience with the guides and their viewing of their classmates using the guides, the students worked with librarians to develop best practices. Results – Students were generally unfamiliar with the library's research guides prior to the study. They identified bibliographic databases as the most important links on the guides and felt that these should be prominently placed. Opinions about many specific features (e.g., images, length of guide, annotations) varied widely, but students felt strongly that there should be some organizational consistency among the guides. Conclusions – The importance that students placed on consistency led the library to adopt guidelines dictating the inclusion of a table of contents and short list of major databases at the top of each guide, as well as uniform placement of certain other elements.

Author Biographies

Laura Cobus-Kuo, Ithaca College Library Ithaca, New York, United States of America
Health Sciences Librarian
Ron Gilmour, Ithaca College Library Ithaca, New York, United States of America
Web Services Librarian
Paul Dickson, Department of Computer Science Ithaca College Ithaca, New York, United States of America
Assistant Professor
Published
2013-12-08
How to Cite
Cobus-Kuo, L., Gilmour, R., & Dickson, P. (2013). Bringing in the Experts: Library Research Guide Usability Testing in a Computer Science Class. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 8(4), 43-59. https://doi.org/10.18438/B8GP5W
Section
Research Articles