Academic libraries are increasingly advocating local user studies as a way to provide the library services that are relevant to the culture and user population of the institution. Good methods for studying user behavior and user needs can and should be shared; however, user needs are shaped by a variety of local factors. Replicating user studies at the local level can provide information for improving existing services or developing new ones. Training and experience of library staff in planning and implementing these studies varies widely, and good studies require collaboration and participation from many individuals. In response, our 2009-2010 User Studies Initiative seeks to build the capacity of Duke University Libraries to conduct valid studies of user needs and behaviors and use these findings to improve our efficiency and effectiveness. Our primary strategy is a staff development series aimed at increasing the awareness and skills of staff in good research practice that will also build collaborative relationships and provide a support network for staff as they embark on user studies. Events are free of charge to all Duke Libraries staff, pending discussion with their supervisor. Staff are also encouraged to include participation in this series in their professional development ("PEP") plan. Staff who attend a minimum of 4 events during the year and contribute to the planning or implementation of a user study will be eligible to receive a certificate of participation from Library HR.
Examples of active user studies in 2009-10
Assessing researcher needs in Cultural Anthropology
| Understanding Behavior of Honors Researchers at Duke University
Emily Daly, Diane Harvey and Yvonne Belanger are conducting a study of nine undergraduates from four targeted academic programs -- history, biology, public policy and program II -- who are completing honors theses in order to graduate with distinction in May 2010. Students are being interviewed at the beginning of the thesis process, mid-way through their research and then after their theses are completed and submitted. The goal of this study is to gain a more complete understanding of students' research habits in order to improve library services for students conducting extensive research projects. (IRB Protocol Number: 2852)
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