What Do We Know About IPL Users?


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An examination of IPL users, their questions, and the processing of questions by the service. Compares two studies which researched user information needs and IPL service provision in 1999 and 2007.

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What Do We Know About IPL Users?

  1. 1. What do we know about IPL users and the services provided to them? Winter 2009
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Information describing visitors of the IPL’s website </li></ul><ul><li>Research about the IPL’s question answering service: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Findings from two studies of the IPL’s email reference service- one in 1999, the other in 2007- will be highlighted. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Studies examined the service’s users, the types of questions posed to the service, and characteristics of the service’s question handling. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sample questions and answers from three specific user communities: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Educational organizations </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Community organizations </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Non-profits </li></ul></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Geographic Distribution of IPL Visitors, 2005-2008
  4. 4. IPL Visitors by Country, 2005-2008 Source: Google Analytics
  5. 5. Email Reference Service, 1999 <ul><li>Carter & Janes (2000) study analyzed reference interactions of the IPL’s question answering service from questions posed to the service in 1999. </li></ul><ul><li>Research conducted for an understanding about the service’s users, questions asked, and how those questions were handled by the service. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Examined 3,022 reference questions. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Questions received from January to March 1999 were included for the study. </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Characteristics of the Service’s Users, 1999 <ul><li>Twenty-four percent of users identified themselves as business persons, and fewer self-identified as teachers or librarians. ( n =888) </li></ul><ul><li>Fifty-two percent of users selected the purpose of their question as school-related. ( n = 1,073) </li></ul><ul><li>Users submitted their questions to the service in the following ways: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>General Adult web form- 68% </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Direct email- 26% </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>KidSpace web form- 4% </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>An IPL web form on the site intended for another purpose- 1.4% </li></ul></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Users’ Questions by Subject, 1999 <ul><li>Users designated the subject of their question on the web forms. Questions unanswered by the service do not receive a subject code. </li></ul><ul><li>The most frequent subjects assigned by users include other , education , humanities , science , and government/law . </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The subject category blank was assigned by researchers when questions were received through direct email. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Service Characteristics, 1999 <ul><li>Approximately 25% of all received questions were rejected (unanswered). </li></ul><ul><li>Top three reasons for question rejection ( n =700) : </li></ul><ul><li>1. Quota (too many questions pending answers) – 53.4% </li></ul><ul><li>2. Rejected due to patron’s specified need-by date- 17.9% </li></ul><ul><li>3. Bad email address- 7.3% </li></ul><ul><li>Questions submitted via the KidSpace web form were most rejected: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Timeliness of response for answered questions ( n = 2,322) : </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>2.10 days for factual questions; 2.31 days for sources questions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>About 25% of questions answered within 1 day </li></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Email Reference Service, 2007 <ul><li>A follow-up to the Carter & Janes (2000) study was conducted using 2007 reference data to explore the IPL’s question answering service. </li></ul><ul><li>Analysis of reference interactions was undertaken by Rozaklis, MacDonald, & Abels (2008) for a poster session competition at Drexel Research Day. </li></ul><ul><li>Investigated the service’s users, the kinds of questions posed, and how those questions were handled by the service. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Examined 128 reference questions, a 1% stratified sample of the total number of questions received by the Ask an IPL Librarian service in 2007. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Characteristics of the Service’s Users, 2007 <ul><li>Twenty-nine percent of users identified themselves as outside of the United States. Sixty-two percent identified their location inside the United States. ( n =128) </li></ul><ul><li>Eighty-three percent of users submitted their questions through the General Adult web form. ( n =128) </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>49% of users’ questions posed via the General Adult web form indicated that they planned to use the response for a school assignment. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Users who reported consulting outside sources prior to contacting the IPL stated having referred to the following sources: </li></ul>Source Percentage ( n =128) Search engine 32% A specific or general Internet resource 28% An academic or public library 9% Another person (teacher, librarian, parent, friend) 1%
  11. 11. Users’ Questions by Subject, 2007 <ul><li>Researchers analyzed all questions, both answered and rejected, to determine which subject codes users assign to their questions. ( n =128) </li></ul><ul><li>The subjects users assigned to questions most frequently include history , other , science , and education . </li></ul><ul><li>Users and IPL Librarians agreed on subject codes assigned to questions 78% of the time. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Users’ Questions by Question Type, 2007 <ul><li>Users’ questions were classified following Schwartz’s (2003) schema. </li></ul>Category and Description of Question Type: Following Schwartz’s (2003) Question Typology Percentage ( n =128) Provide: “Provide questions were distinguishable by the phrase: “Please provide me with all of the information you have about . . .” or similar injunction. Such questions placed the entire burden of research on the librarian, without any request for instruction or interest in participating in the process of gathering information.” 38% Factual: “Factual questions asked for a specific piece of information, much like a traditional ready reference question.” 33% Need: “ Need questions simply stated a research need, for example, “I need information about stock prices in Argentina,” or “I need three articles about women in Bangladesh”. 12% Advise : “ Advise questions asked for advice in the research process, specifically about which sources to consult or which databases would be best for a particular project.” 10% Instruct: “Instruct questions asked for instruction on solving an information need. These e-mails could include “How do I find information about the Roman Empire?” The emphasis in this category was a conspicuous request for instruction. Not only did a person need to find something, but they wished to know how to do it–perhaps in order to become more self-sufficient and knowledgeable about conducting research.” 6% Statements: “Statements were not questions at all, rather they were general compliments, suggestions, or complaints.” 1%
  13. 13. Service Characteristics, 2007 <ul><li>Of the 128 questions sampled for the study, 40% were rejected. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>This figure is slightly higher than the rejection rate for all questions received in 2007, at 33%. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Roughly 50% of questions received through the KidSpace web form were rejected . </li></ul><ul><li>Fifty-percent of questions posed for work-related purposes were rejected. </li></ul><ul><li>Treatment of questions by how the user stated that they would use the response ( n =128) : </li></ul>
  14. 14. Specific User Groups of the Ask an IPL Librarian Service <ul><li>Additional user communities identified include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Educational organizations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Community organizations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Non-profits </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sample questions and answers from those specific user groups included in the remaining slides. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Educational Organizations (1)
  16. 16. Educational Organizations (2)
  17. 17. Community Organizations
  18. 18. Non-profit Organizations
  19. 19. Sources Consulted <ul><li>Carter, D.S., & Janes, J. (2000). Unobtrusive Analysis of Digital Reference Questions and Service at the Internet Public Library: An exploratory study. Library Trends, 49 (2), 251-265. </li></ul><ul><li>Schwartz, J. (2003). Toward a Typology of E-mail Reference Questions. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 8 (3), 1-15. </li></ul>