Availability studies estimate the proportion of items in a collection that library users can access. This traditional research method can help librarians find and fix the most significant access problems with electronic resources, and connect patrons with information through better collection development and acquisitions decisions.
To date, all electronic resource availability studies have been "simulated" studies, in which a librarian tests access to a sample of items. Simulated availability studies identify technical problems with electronic resources, but don't address how database interface design or insufficient library research skills could prevent a student from successfully obtaining a desired item.
This study represents the first known attempt at a "real" electronic resource availability study, in which recruited students generate and test the sample. It uses quantitative methods to estimate overall resource availability, and a cognitive walkthrough (a usability research method) to compare the way Redlands students actually retrieve full text against an ideal process articulated by Redlands librarians.
The study's conclusions can be used to benchmark studies of e-resource availability at other campuses, provide input into database interface design and improve library instruction concerning electronic resources.
Arts and Electronic Resources Librarian, University of Redlands