Interviewing scientists for their library and information needs


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  • This presentation describes a study for understanding research scientists and their information needs.
  • This study has two goals. First, we want to identify scientists’ best practices for information activities. We want to learn about their novel approaches for information and then promote this within the organization. Additionally, we could assess whether there is a gap between perceived best practices and actual best practices. Secondly, we want to know what information resources and services scientists need and want. Understanding these elements will help the Library to prioritize our planning and development.
  • We are going to interview scientists – to have open-ended conversations about their research and information activities. Why conduct these in-person interviews instead of a fast and easy web survey? Let’s look at the advantages first.
  • Interviews allow you to ask open-ended questions as well as follow-up questions for clarification. We can cast a wide net to understand the big picture, and we can probe deeply when we wish. Additionally, you can get rich responses with interviews because we can prompt the participant and because in-person conversations may be more engaging. Also, by meeting scientists in their lab, we can see how they work with information and understand their context and their natural setting. Finally, in-person interviews let you kill two birds with one stone. While learning about scientists’ information needs, we could explain the library’s roles, services, and opportunities. Participants may get to know us better and become library supporters.
  • Interviews yield qualitative themes and comments. This data may not be generalizable or representative of the average scientist. To resolve this, quantitative surveys could be conducted later. The results of the interviews may help us focus the surveys and ensure their value. Interviews can be labor intensive. So we will pace ourselves by conducting interviews periodically as part of an ongoing exercise. Furthermore, these conversations might give the impression that the Library will implement the service suggestions. This is a problem of overhype and false expectations. It is important that we do not overpromise the participant by reminding that the research goal is simply to understand information needs.
  • First, we recruit participants through snowball sampling. It’s like rolling a snowball.  You recruit some potential participants – people we have access to, who may be open to participating in a library study. After interviewing them, we ask them to recommend some contacts who may be interested, and after this next set of interviews, we gather their contacts. Reaching out to recommended contacts may encourage participation since the study has been vetted by a colleague.  With the idea of six degrees of separation, we hope to be able to interview a diverse group of scientists.
  • We begin by emailing participants to arrange for a time to meet. At our meeting, we explain that the research is anonymous and reports generated will have de-identified quotes from our discussion.
  • We then show the scientist our concept map.
  • In the center core, fundamental research objectives are listed.
  • The outer white ring lists some information activities for meeting those research objectives.
  • The outside ring outlines services, resources, and tools that support those information activities.
  • So it’s like the old lady who swallowed the cow, to swallow the dog, to swallow the cat, to swallow the bird, to swallow the spider, to swallow the fly that she swallowed in the first place. Therefore, these services, tools, and resources (i.e. outer ring) support the information activities (i.e. white ring) that allow you to meet core objectives in scientific research (i.e. center of figure). So the participant evaluates the concept map.
  • Beginning with positive psychology, we ask them to checkmark those activities that they find easy to accomplish, feel works well, or feel confident about. Hopefully this positive start will foster discussion. We ask them why these activities work well and what advice they have for fellow researchers.
  • Then we ask the participant to circle those items that they find unnecessarily complicated. We ask them to explain the challenges and to identify what resources would be helpful.
  • We then conclude the study by asking for requests for library resources and services – and whether they have any questions about this research or the Library. Data is collected by taking notes on a laptop computer. We try to transcribe the conversations particularly during salient moments in the dialogue.
  • How will the results be used? The results may offer the Library ideas and suggestions for the following areas:the promotion and marketing of existing services and resourcespotential acquisition of new resourcespotential services development instructional opportunities library planning
  • Here is a haiku summary. 
  • Interviewing scientists for their library and information needs

    1. 1. Interviewing scientists <br />for their library and information needs<br />Jeffery Loo<br /><br />April 2010<br />
    2. 2. a study to understand scientists’ library and information needs<br />
    3. 3. 1<br />Identify best practices for information activities<br />Learn and then promote<br />Assess gap between perceived and actual<br />Study goals<br />2<br />Identify information resources and services needed<br />results will help determine priorities for planning<br />
    4. 4. What is the study’s approach?<br />interviews – open ended conversations<br />
    5. 5. Advantages of interviews<br />open-ended questions<br />cast a wide net<br />rich responses<br />two birds with one stone<br />understand needs<br />and explain library services<br />understand context and <br />natural setting<br />
    6. 6. Challenges of interviews and their resolution<br />qualitative responses may not <br />be representative<br /> conduct quantitative surveys later<br />labor intensive<br /> an ongoing exercise<br />false impressions, false expectations, overhype<br /> remind participant of the research goal<br />
    7. 7. How do the interviews work?<br />snowball sampling<br />begin with known contacts  their contacts  their contacts<br />6 degrees of separation  interview a diverse group<br />
    8. 8. Methodology<br />email participants to arrange meeting<br />interviews are anonymous<br />de-identified quotes for reports<br />
    9. 9.
    10. 10. fundamental research objectives<br />
    11. 11. associated information activities<br />
    12. 12. supportive information services, resources, tools<br />
    13. 13.
    14. 14. Q: Best practices?<br />checkmark those activities that they …<br /><ul><li> find easy to accomplish
    15. 15. feel works well
    16. 16. feel confident about</li></ul>why?<br />what advice for fellow researchers?<br />
    17. 17. Q: What needs improvement?<br />circle items that are unnecessarily <br />complicated<br />why?<br />what would be helpful?<br />
    18. 18. conclude the study<br />requests for resources <br />and services?<br />questions?<br />data collection<br />notes on laptop computer<br />transcribe salient dialogue<br />
    19. 19. How will the results be used?<br />Gather ideas and suggestions for:<br />promotion and marketing of existing resources<br />potential acquisition of new resources<br />potential services development<br />instructional opportunities<br />library planning<br />
    20. 20. Haiku summary<br />Good service meets your<br />needs, experiences – let’s<br />interview, then plan.<br />