Utilizing discovery tools for classrooms: how do librarian attitudes on discovery impact tools they teach?

Publication Date02 Mar 2015
AuthorNatasha Danae Allen
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology
Utilizing discovery tools for classrooms: how do
librarian attitudes on discovery impact tools
they teach?
Natasha Danae Allen
Do librarian attitudes on discovery
tools affect what they teach in the
classroom? My goal was to answer this
question, at least in part, as part of a
course project for my Library and
Information Science distance education
program at the University of Wisconsin-
Discovery tools are currently a hot
topic among librarians. Many libraries,
including the one at which I am currently
employed, are either considering a switch
or have already made a switch to a
cloud-based discovery layer. At this
point in time, my library utilizes three
different search systems on the main
Web site: a traditional Online Public
Access Catalog (OPAC; Voyager), an
open-source discovery layer (VuFind)
and a next-generation discovery tool
(Summon). We would like to replace
all three with one discovery product
within the next couple of years
(Figure 1).
I chose to focus specifically on
librarians because I noticed in my
research for a literature review on the
subject, that there are a plethora of user
studies that focus on students and faculty
members who use library services, but
none that focus on the librarians
themselves. Librarians use library services
on a regular basis both for their own
research and on behalf of the patrons who
ask for their help, yet their own feelings
on discovery tools seem to be regularly
overlooked. Librarians are essentially
“the face” of the library, and unlike
Internet search engines, still have their
own opinions and biases about any
number of subjects, including the tools
they use. They are human after all. I
wanted to know if this bias might have
any effect on the patrons with whom
they regularly interact.
I found several examples of this type
of bias from discussions with librarians
on the subject of discovery tools. There
seemed to be a general dislike for
Summon as opposed to Voyager or
even VuFind, and I wondered if this
attitude translated into what kinds of
tools they taught in the classroom. The
librarians at our school often utilize
different tools based on the types of
subjects they are teaching, and therefore
might use different boxes compared to
their colleagues on the main search page.
I wondered if it was possibly affecting
what students are learning in their
Information Literacy courses, and might
be factoring in to how students are
productively using the library.
In a recent University-wide
LibQUALsurvey of library users,
many comments noted that the Web site
was confusing and that users felt they
were unequipped to properly use it. I
wondered if the confusion our survey
respondents expressed might have
something to do with the fact that there
are so many search boxes on the library’s
main page. I also wondered if there was a
possibility that these students were
encountering confusion during one-shot
information literacy sessions.
My study initially began by surveying
the instruction librarians of my
institution. I asked them to rate the
usefulness of discovery tool search
results compared to a traditional OPAC. I
ensured that the search examples in each
tool gave the same results so I could
accurately measure if the preference was
based on a bias toward a particular
system or not. I sent out a list of five
questions to each of the participating
librarians. The librarians were asked
when they graduated library school and
how many years they had worked in a
library setting. They were also asked
certain demographic information such
as their gender, date they graduated
from library school and if their
employment status was faculty or staff.
I asked these questions to obtain as
much usable data as I could from the
responses (Figure 2).
For each question, the librarian would
conduct a search based on a simple
research scenario in our traditional
catalog, Ex Libris’ Voyager, then
conducts the same search in Villanova
University’s open source discovery tool
VuFind. Next I asked them to rate their
results page on a 1-5 scale with 1 being
least useful and 5 being most useful. I
asked each librarian to decide if they
thought one search was better than the
other, and why they would choose it.
The answers were recorded in Excel
then analyzed in SPSS.
The results, which are displayed in
Table I, showed that the librarians are
using VuFind and Voyager equally. On
average, both systems were rated fairly
highly with VuFind being rated at 4.6
out of 5 and Voyager at a 4.2 out 5.
Some searches such as Voyager’s
author search were rated higher
(Figure 3) than VuFind’s (Figure 4).
Other searches such as VuFind’s title
search (Figure 5) were rated higher than
the Voyager search (Figure 6) regardless
of demographic.
This told me the librarians are using
different systems for different kinds of
searches, and that they seem to view the
systems equally as helpful in general. In
LIBRARY HITECH NEWS Number 1 2015, pp. 8-12, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 0741-9058, DOI 10.1108/LHTN-09-2014-00788

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