Information Seeking Behaviours of Business Students and the Development of Academic Digital Libraries

Joyline Makani, Kelli WooShue


Objectives - The objective of this project was to gain insight into the extent to which user information seeking behaviours should inform the design and development of digital libraries in an academic setting. Researchers conducted this study at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada to explore the information seeking behaviours of business students.

Methods - The students participating in the study were enrolled in the School of Business Administration at Dalhousie University. The study was based on qualitative and quantitative data collected through a survey, in-depth semi-structured interviews, an observational study, and document analysis. Qualitative case study data was coded using QSR N6 qualitative data analysis software (. The data was categorized using Atkinson’s Model of Business Information Users’ Expectations and Renda and Straccia‘s personalized collaborative digital library (DL) model. Atkinson’s model defines the expectations of business students in terms of cost, time, effort required, pleasure, and the avoidance of pain. Renda and Straccia’s model of a personalized and collaborative digital library centres around three concepts: actors, objects, and functionality. The survey data was analysed using Zoomerang software .

Results - The study results revealed that students tend to select resources based on cost (free or for fee), accessibility, ease of use, speed of delivery (of results), and convenience. The results showed that similar to Atkinson’s findings, business students’ information seeking behaviour is influenced by the concepts of cost-benefit and break-even analyses that underlie business education. Concerning speed of delivery and convenience, the organization of the resources was paramount. Students preferred user-defined resource lists, alert services, and expert-created business resource collections. When asked about the usefulness of potential digital library functionalities, students valued a personalized user interface and communal virtual spaces in order to share information and communicate in real-time with their peers.

Conclusion - This study reveals that when digital libraries are developed, user behaviours and needs should be taken into consideration. Results demonstrate that the activity as well as the “user’s orientation and motivation” (here the business student training) can directly influence the design and use of a digital tool. In other words, this study confirms a new typology of a business digital information user, one that requires the building of dedicated accredited library research systems. Providing information and information tools tailored to this specific audience is more likely to increase the appeal and use of an academic business digital library.

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