ala 2013 notes from reference research forum

The 19th Annual Reference Research Forum was held Saturday, June 29th.

Research Guides Usability Study by Andrew Walsh, Information Literacy Fellow and Angela Pashia, Instructional Services Outreach Librarian, both at the University of West Georgia

Walsh and Pashia studied usability of their research LibGuides with focused testing and other user feedback methods. Common issues they discovered were:
~ students using the LibGuides search box to find articles (they’ve removed it);
~ confusion about the role of the guides in research process; and
~ ability to navigate to a specific guide from the LibGuides homepage.

Students commented on some aspects of the guides they did like, including:
~ the drop-down options on tabbed menu;
~ embedded search boxes (the catalog or specific databases); and
~ Virginia Commonwealth University’s subject guide home page (which they will now use as a model for their own).

Two Birds, One Stone: Using a Mixed Methods Approach to Measure Service Process and Identify Usability Pain Points in Virtual Reference by Christine Tobias, User Experience and Reference Librarian at the Michigan State University Libraries

Tobias examined virtual reference using an evidence-based model with both quantitative and qualitative assessment tools. She wanted to know what type of questions are asked during virtual reference and if it is a valid service point. Using the transcript for each reference question, Tobias applied up to three general codes about user need/confusion such as library resources, library services, tech help, local resources, etc. She found a dominance in questions asking about library resources. The top questions were in her assigned categories of research question, article known citation, and e-resources.

Tobias used transcripts to find common users’ pain points. She ran the transcript through Dedoose for text analysis. Her prominent findings were that users had issues with the library website’s presentation of access to resources and services and that navigation of the website is difficult. She can now work on fixing these non-reference problems and reduce user confusion.