Exploration of Information Needs and Academic Library Use of the Blind and Visually Impaired Students in Croatia

Silvana Šehić, Sanjica Faletar Tanacković

Abstract


The study presented in this paper explores the educational experiences of blind and visually impaired students in Croatia, with particular emphasis on their academic information behavior and access to and uses of library services.

In-depth interviews were conducted with six blind and three visually impaired undergraduate and graduate students across country in September 2013. Interviews were conducted in person and via Skype. Initial findings reveal that academic libraries used by respondents only sporadically respond to their needs and that blind and visually impaired students, when looking for information and materials for academic purposes, rely most often on interpersonal sources and the Internet. In seeking and using information respondents put more value on information quality and reliability than the level of effort and time needed to find it (and adapt for reading). The preferred format for this specific user group is not the Braille, but electronic document. The assistive technologies play major role in their educational experiences. Overall, they are struggling with time-constraints, lack of independence and lack of understanding of others and limited access to electronic materials and 'clear' print documents which can be 'read' by the blind and visually impaired if equipped with adequate technological solutions. Interestingly, students' determination proved to be very important factor enhancing their information behavior.

While the findings of this study can not be generalised, valuabe insights have been gained into the information behavior and library use of blind and visually impaired students, a user group that has been largely understudied in library literature.

In conclusion authors discuss possible improvements to the library services which would facilitate information behavior and contribute to the successful educational experience of blind and visually impaired students at Croatian universities.

 

Keywords: blind and visually impaired students, information behavior, academic library use, interviews, Croatia

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