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What can we learn from campus leaders, quickly?


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Rea Devakos, University of Toronto

This session reports on a focus group methodology built on Dervin’s Sense Making communication methodology. Unlike many focus group and other qualitative research methods, this approach delivers in depth, reliable data quickly. Originally piloted by Dr. Dervin at Ohio State, it has been used at the University of Toronto to study information seeking amongst leaders of student journals. Informal campus leaders, including students, are seldom studied by libraries. Yet they are often deeply engaged in the institution and influence the actions and perceptions of others. The session will outline the methodology and highlight a few key results.

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What can we learn from campus leaders, quickly?

  1. 1. What can we learn from campus leaders, quickly? <ul><li>Graduate students involved in student led journals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Information stewards </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intensive information users </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Potential authors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Influentials </li></ul></ul>Rea Devakos [email_address] Brenda L Dervin [email_address]
  2. 2. Disconnect: information seeking <ul><li>Library literature </li></ul><ul><li>Higher education literature </li></ul><ul><li>Lived experience </li></ul><ul><li>“ Biggest problem in the expert-user understanding gap is the culture of expertise” </li></ul>
  3. 3. Audiences <ul><li>We expect </li></ul><ul><ul><li>On our path </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Just like use </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We think we got a collision of worlds </li></ul><ul><li>We get </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Muddling into the unknown </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Detouring to our worlds </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Really understanding users requires we change how we go about communicating with users </li></ul>
  4. 4. Copyright 2008, Brenda Dervin Situation User construct
  5. 5. When it comes to communicating, the user in the long run controls all the gates <ul><li>Must find a way to interface with users so they can speak to us on their own terms </li></ul><ul><ul><li>get glimmer of possibility we might be on their sides </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>are willing to engage in a quid pro quo-- share themselves because we engage them communicatively </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Methodology developed from
  7. 7. Sense-Making Focus Groups <ul><li>Situational questions </li></ul><ul><li>Neutral follow up ?s </li></ul><ul><li>Minimize expertness </li></ul><ul><li>Written instruments: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pre, during and post </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Structured turn taking </li></ul>
  8. 8. 5 U of T students <ul><li>Recruited by email </li></ul><ul><li>Dec 2010 </li></ul><ul><li>$10, pizza and pop </li></ul><ul><li>4 PhD; 1 2 nd masters </li></ul><ul><li>All required to complete thesis </li></ul><ul><li>Publication encouraged </li></ul><ul><li>3 TAs </li></ul>
  9. 9. First Question <ul><li>Think of a time when you had a situation where you needed answers or solutions and you did a quick search and made do with it. You knew there were other sources but you decided not to use them. Please include sources such as friends, family, professors, colleagues, etc. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Describe the situation briefly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What led to your decision? </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Other Questions <ul><li>Chose not use a library and used other source(s) instead </li></ul><ul><li>Thorough academic search </li></ul><ul><li>Sharing a new information tool or approach w/ another student or a faculty member. </li></ul><ul><li>Magic wand: library system/services </li></ul><ul><li>Verbal: conscious use or non use of licensed library tools </li></ul>
  11. 11. Reflection <ul><li>Things that I heard that </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Were like /different my experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Challenged or confused me </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I agreed/disagreed with </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Helped me </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Participants and coders completed </li></ul>
  12. 12. Coding: responsible and quick <ul><li>What </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Surprised </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Agree </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Disagree </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Spoke directly </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reminded </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What (was the gap) </li></ul><ul><li>When </li></ul><ul><li>Where </li></ul><ul><li>How </li></ul><ul><li>What </li></ul><ul><li>Valence </li></ul>
  13. 13. Preliminary findings <ul><li>Situational and sophisticated strategies </li></ul><ul><li>Library </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Negative valence </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Never </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Easy searches </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Time constraints </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Tasks always thorough, complex </li></ul><ul><li>MIA: collection and library staff </li></ul>
  14. 14. Trust us for complex tasks – and we dissapoint <ul><li>This was really an exercise that the professor sent me on. He knew that the source existed in the library, but it doesn’t come you did a sort of standard title or author search. It just, but knowing that the item existed made the task into a challenge and I kept at it for much, much longer than I would have than in any other circumstances. And I found lots and lots of quirks to the university’s catalogue system. I think the biggest lesson I learned there was ‘Well that’s almost a hopeless task’, and it’s much more efficient to find one or two nice things and then use their sources, use their bibliographies to keep going. And that’s largely what I’ve done since then. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Professors <ul><li>Rx: There’s, there’s almost no replacement in terms of the amount of hours I put into online searches, for talking to someone [supervisor] who is aware of, you know, ‘this is the foundational text in the field’, or, ‘this person has written on this topic extensively’. You know, going to his office and he can say, ‘Oh, this book will probably help you’, and he probably even has it on the shelf. I mean, I don’t know if that’s going to helpful for you at all. But there is a kind of ‘scholarly experience’ almost. </li></ul><ul><li>Ry: Scholarly word of mouth. </li></ul><ul><li>Rz: That is kind of invaluable. </li></ul><ul><li>Ry: Yeah I agree </li></ul>
  16. 16. Rethink specialized databases <ul><li>There is an excellent indexing site devoted to my field.. My field is within a field, within a field, within a field- that sort of thing, and so the narrower you can get with your starting database the better. The less you have of just sort of random things. So … Google is no good for me, because it gives me everything. But this indexing site gives me all sorts of peer-reviewed academic type sources without having to struggle with, with sorting through things that aren’t related to my field. And it integrates, it gives me proxy access through the library to all the papers. So you just do a subject search or an author search, and everything that person’s ever published shows up, and you click on it, and if it’s available through the library, there it is on the screen. So that’s just delightful. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Quickly assessing fit for purpose <ul><li>I don’t want to be frustrated. So often I find that if I’m using the wrong tool for what I want, or if the tool isn’t intuitive in terms of feeling like I’m able to tell it specifically the kind of things that I’m looking for and even in the domain in which I’d like it to be searching. So, you don’t notice when it’s working well but when it’s not intuitive in that way. It’s very frustrating. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Wary interest Relevance/ Reputation ranking <ul><li>Actually I start all of my research on Amazon, and when I tell people this they find it really, really surprising. But, I’ve had experience at two different universities, specifically at Toronto, the query system brings up the worst possible list of results. It’s never what I’m looking for. It’s always like in a totally different time period, on a totally different topic. So, when I type something into Amazon, it almost always brings up something that's what I’m looking for, and it seems like a much more intuitive. </li></ul>
  19. 19. So what continued <ul><li>More/less like this </li></ul><ul><li>Doable and useful methodology </li></ul><ul><li>Further research </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Iconic brands </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other influentials </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Urls and thanks <ul><li> / </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> / </li></ul><ul><li>Thanks: ACRL WNYO / OCULA </li></ul><ul><li>Brenda Dervin Respondents </li></ul><ul><li>Gabriela Mircea Aidan Goodwin </li></ul><ul><li>Matt Vanstone </li></ul>