I found the website for the Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction while looking around for some information on usability. The site is about “human-centred aspects of technology” (from the About page) and I thought at first that allot of the information in here might be of use for librarians interested in Web and Library 2.0 issues. However, I have come across a few interesting articles recently which sort of tied in with this topic, so here are a few rambling thoughts on the topic of the user experience as it relates to libraries, and a few (amateurish) ideas about how to improve user experience.
The Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (or ERIAL) findings to be published soon, found that students generally were fairly wasteful when it came to using information resources – they knew where the information was, but did not have the skills to access it properly, or understand the results of searches. In an article about the ERIAL findings in InsideHigherEd.com (22.08.2011), titled What students don’t know,
Only seven out of 30 students whom anthropologists observed at Illinois Wesleyan “conducted what a librarian might consider a reasonably well-executed search,” wrote Duke and Andrew Asher, an anthropologist at Bucknell University… Throughout the interviews, students mentioned Google 115 times — more than twice as many times as any other database… but the Illinois researchers found something they did not expect: students were not very good at using Google. They were basically clueless about the logic underlying how the search engine organizes and displays its results.
What students don’t know / Steve Kolowich, 22.08.2011, viewed 25.08.2011, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/08/22/erial_study_of_student_research_habits_at_illinois_university_libraries_reveals_alarmingly_poor_information_literacy_and_skills
This isn’t really a new finding and shouldn’t surprise anyone. The fact that it does surprise anyone might have something to do with the fact that librarians are looking at information behaviour from the perspective of what librarians believe should be happening, rather than from what is happening. As an example, while studying LIS I wanted to find information about how people actually looked for information, rather than just look at what my reference and research textbooks suggested was the way it should be done. I knew I didn’t follow a clear path to writing essays or putting information together, and I suspected I wasn’t the only one.
Finally I came across an article The paradoxical world of young people’s information behaviour by Andrew K. Shenton (School Libraries Worldwide, vol 13, no 2, July 2007). I suggest you read it. One of the mind-blowing statements of Shenton’s is contained just a few paragraphs into the article where he suggests that many of the things librarians are implementing in the library to help the facilitation of information retrieval and utilisation are actually acting as “barriers” to ordinary people, especially students, when using the library. Reading something like that for the