Harris Interactive: How Academic Librarians Can Influence Students’ Web-Based Information Choices

A pretty interesting look at what the “end-user market segment” that is college students thinks about looking for information online. Keep in mind this is not positioned as a study about people look for information in libraries generally, though the argument could be made that more and more people are looking at the Internet as the first, and perhaps the last, destination for information retrieval. However, that point is not addressed in this survey. Some random facts I pulled out

  • 80% of students surveyed are bothesred at least a little by advertising within websites though “only one-in-five believes ad-free websites have more reliable information.”
  • The survey says “They access the web via high-speed lines, with over 40% logging on via cable modem, T1/T3 line, ISDN, or ADSL/DSL.” which has the obvious follow-up question of how the majority of them access the web, or perhaps whether the response was phrased oddly and is confusing like this sentence nearby “[O]ver 90% access the web remotely from the library via their home computer” which i think means they gain access to the web through the library’s web site?
  • Students find librarians assistance with searching online no more helpful than that provided by teachers or friends “The mean satisfaction score for librarian-provided help is 7.8 (on a scale of 0 to 10), compared to scores of 7.9 for help provided by professorsor teaching assistants and 7.8 for classmates or friends.” I wonder if this would have a different result if it asked about print resources, or other in-library resources?
  • There are further questions about print resources that show that 89% “use the campus library’s print resources” with books, journals and articles getting 75/70/64% respectively.

The survey also contains recommendations

The data strongly suggest that there are real opportunities for academic librarians to connect students with libraries’ high quality resources. A successful approach should incorporate the following tactics to increase libraries’ visibility on the web:

  1. Emphasis on students’ and librarians’ common preferences for accuracy, authority, timeliness, and privacy
  2. Tight integration of the library’s electronic resources with faculty, administrative, and other campus websites
  3. Open access for remote users
  4. Clear and readily available navigational guides–both online and in the library.
  5. Relentless promotion, instruction, and customer service.

The study ends with some questions for further exploration which have a bit too much market-driven speak in them for my tastes, but I know libraries have to start thinking about these things in an academic environment, or at least that’s what people keep telling us. Two examples

  • Students expect service providers–both electronic and bricks-and-mortar–to offer convenience, selection, quality, and a welcoming atmosphere. Can librarians create a customer-friendly experience to match the best merchants and consumer websites?
  • Students want to know more about the library and its resources. Can librarians execute marketing rules for product definition, promotion, price, placement, and positioning?

I guess a secondary question to these last two is “Should they?” I honestly don’t know. OCLC has the 2005 numbers, I’m curious to know what they say. [iag]