Library Users Attempt to Access a Wide Range of Information Beyond Books and Articles through a Single Search Box
Keywords:discovery services, information-seeking behavior
AbstractA Review of:
Lown, C., Sierra, T., & Boyer, J. (2013). How users search the library from a single search box. College & Research Libraries, 74(3), 227-241. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/crl-321
Objective – To identify how users use a single search box.
Design – Transaction log analysis.
Setting – A large research university in North Carolina, United States of America.
Subjects – Search results from a customized single search box on the library’s home page, consisting of 739,180 searches and 655,388 hyperlink selections.
Methods – The authors used custom logging software to generate transaction logs of all searches that took place over two semesters (August to December 2010 and January to May 2011) in QuickSearch, a custom-made, combined search application. The study tracked search queries and hyperlink selections, noting which modules in the discovery interface (articles, catalogue, databases, and others) were selected and, from these modules, which hyperlinks were clicked.
Main Results – Transaction log analysis was conducted on over 739,000 searches during the two semesters and over 655,000 hyperlink selections from the results interface. The 20 most frequent queries made in QuickSearch were primarily for specific resources (database titles or journal titles), administrative information, and library services. The 153 most popular searches made up 10% of all searches. Hyperlinks to full-text articles (41.5%) and the catalogue (35.2%) accounted for about 76% of the links selected. About 23% of links selected were for other modules (e.g., FAQs, “best bets,” and journal titles). Hyperlinks that led directly to specific items were selected more frequently than hyperlinks to a full list of results.
Conclusion – Analysis of user transaction logs suggests that users do not understand what is being searched in a combined search box and that search applications need to direct users more effectively to resources beyond the catalogue and article databases. Users attempt to access a wide range of information from a single search box, and the most commonly used modules in QuickSearch do not serve many of the most frequent queries. Many of the most common queries can be defined and addressed with a predefined list of results, improving the quality of results and the search experience for users. Ongoing evaluation and analysis of the search interface and subsequent optimization for the most frequent queries can improve user experience.
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