Are Users Finding Our Online Reference
Stephen Abram, MLS
Lighthouse Consulting, Dysart & Jones
RUSA Panel Webinar
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
What do I want to share today?
• It’s just a 15 minute overview!
• The six key issues on why our users aren’t finding the resources they
need as successfully as they should and could.
• And, they aren’t…
• And it’s our issue to solve . . . Not for them to train-up for.
Is digital more complicated than Print?
1. Understand the difference
between Search and Find
• Roy Tennant and I have been saying for years: “Users want to find not
• Librarians enjoy the challenge of search and try to create mini-librarians.
• Information literacy is different than contextual information fluency.
• “Search” is not a single skill and Boolean is a crazy first step for the average
end-user – the real competency being taught and hopefully learned here is
learning, research and decision-making.
2. Understand the difference between
the roles of discovery services and
• Search is the identification of potential objects to read or view in
either a known item retrieval scenario or – more importantly – an
immersion environment where choices are made.
• Until recently, we handled immersion environments in the context of
defined subsets of content (a single database or small group).
• Discovery services are one step before search – the identification and
discovery of the resources (databases) that are worth searching.
The Field Mapping Failure
Double a penny every day for a month =
Over $1 billion in just 30 days
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
And the Algorithm Understanding Failure
The power of algorithm is
in the target user
needs, the institutional
needs, and the behavioral
. . . Not the underlying
Are there any real national
initiatives to understand
and differentiate library
end user behaviors from
constructs? (yes but …)
3. Get the naming and labeling
• Vendors must develop unique names and brands for their services to meet
positioning, marketing and sales needs to you.
• There is no need for you to fall in line and pass through these names – or
worse try to train end users to know hundreds of them!
• Can anyone defend using these titles to be the single most important label
for end users? MLA, Scopus, Compendex, ABI/Inform . . .?
• Honestly! The needs of trademark law don’t match the needs of users to
4. Stop trying to emulate Google –
• Are you SEO, SMO, ad, geo-tag, and link bait focused? Do you want
algorithms that display content based on commercial priorities?
• Do you want your algorithm to display the paid-for term and
questionable quality content spam?
• Are your services (digital and personal) about Who, What, When and
Where – ready reference? Or do you focus on Why and How – research
• Clearly know how you’re different not a pale copy.
5. Context and Culture rule
• Describe and map your user’s real workflows and not just
our understanding of the small segment we see.
• Seek to understand how learning, research and / or decisionmaking happen.
• Finding the resource is insufficient – especially if I must print
it, can’t easily cite it, have difficulty loading it agnostically on
any device . . . etc.
6. Invest in persona development
• If you still only segment by undergrads, grads and
faculty . . . You’re failing to understand the real user.
• e.g. Does anyone really prioritize content and
answers by format?
Impact: Your Strategies and
What should libraries do?
Modest suggestions to approach on a global not institutional scale
• Stop seeing ‘search’ as a single goal or solution
• Put targeted content experiences in the path of the
user, learner, researcher… in learning management systems, social
media, intranets, etc.
• Develop better and stronger partnerships with IT support and user
• Massive shift to the “Cloud” and not just software . . .
• Build a library of shared APIs, frameworks and code and start to
integrate the ILS with fulltext, Google, DPLA, OCLC WorldShare and your
own and other repositories as well as OpenURL and CCC FindIt
• Get better at shared analytics (including geo) to build experiences and
• STOP displaying digital resources based on the shelving and format
needs of physical resources
• Adopt project management practices including Scrum and Agile
methodologies and get faster sprints and iterative development.
• Build ‘real’ consortia that rise above buying clubs and really offer costeffective, rugged platforms (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, with ILS/LMS) for success
• Investment in persona development and targeting the end-user
experience in workflows and research flows and learning flows
Stephen Abram, MLS, FSLA
Consultant, Dysart & Jones/Lighthouse Consulting
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