The Library in the Life of the User: Engaging with People Where They Live and Learn
Compiled and co-authored by Lynn Silipigni Connaway
This compilation provides a sequential overview of some of our user behavior research findings that articulate the need for the design of future library services to be all about the user.
- People associate the library with books and do not consider the library in relation to online resources or reference services.
- People may not think of using libraries to get their information because they do not know that the services exist and some of the existing services are not familiar or do not fit into their workflows.
- The context and situation of the information need often dictates how people behave and engage with technology.
- Engagement and relationship building in both the online and physical environments is important for the development of successful and effective services.
As Lorcan Dempsey has stated, it is important to think of the library in the life of the user and not the user in the life of the library. The findings included in this report illustrate how some behaviors have changed as new technologies emerge while other behaviors remain constant. We have heard from our study participants time and time again that there are more convenient and familiar ways of getting information today than from the traditional library, usually discovered through a web browser, including freely available resources, such as Wikipedia; human resources; and library resources. We also have learned that the context of the information need influences how and why people engage with technology and make their information choices. Convenience often is the reason expressed for the choices that people make about technology, and about the information and resources they use. Convenient does not necessarily mean simple since individuals constantly are evaluating and assessing the importance and necessity of their information needs. This represents a fluid and ever-changing process, which makes it difficult to identify the one perfect way to provide information and services; making the saying, one size fits none, a reality.
This compilation will be of interest to librarians, information scientists and library and information science students and researchers as they think about new ways to provide user-centered library services and to conduct research that will inform practice in ways to engage and build relationships with users and potential users. We suggest that as they peruse it, they think of how we, as librarians, can provide services and systems that will complement the ways individuals, work, live and learn. Is this possible, or is it taking on more than we have the capacity to do, especially in the current environment of limited resources and budgets? And, ultimately, is this something that we have an interest in pursuing?
This work represents more than a decade of collaborative work with colleagues from The Ohio State University and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and with Jisc, in collaboration with Oxford University and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. It is part of our user studies theme, in which we study the ways in which individuals engage with technology; how they seek, access, contribute, and use information; and how and why they demonstrate these behaviors and do what they do. The goal of this work is to provide the library community with behavioral evidence about individuals’ perceptions, habits and requirements to ensure that the design of future library services is all about the user.
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Connaway, Lynn Silipigni, comp. 2015. The Library in the Life of the User: Engaging with People Where They Live and Learn. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research. http://www.oclc.org/content/dam/research/publications/2015/oclcresearch-library-in-life-of-user.pdf.