Researching bibliographic data with users: examples of 5 qualitative studies

Katarina Švab, Tanja Merčun, Maja Žumer


Introduction. Library catalogues enable people to explore and take advantage of the wealth of library collections. However, their use is relatively low, not only because they are difficult to use but also because they lack the needed data.

Research questions. To go beyond the constraints of current bibliographic data and find potentially missing data elements, our research investigated what data is needed to help different types of users find, identify, select, obtain, and explore information in the context of fiction.

Methods. Using a combination of qualitative methods (observations, surveys, and interviews), different groups of users were investigated. For each of the groups a special study was designed to find out based on which criteria they selected books. Rounding up the series of studies, a focus group and interviews were organised with reference librarians to tap into their rich experience.

Results. Although the paper briefly outlines some of the main conclusions from the five studies, more focus is given on the study descriptions from the viewpoint of their design.

Conclusions. To improve digital or classical services, investigation of information needs is one of the key areas that can benefit considerably from qualitative research methods. Our paper provides examples of how these studies can be designed and what kind of research questions they can help us answer.


Keywords: information needs, interviews, observations, focus groups, library catalogues



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