Case study: Search + orientation patterns
1. Online catalogues
Visitors who access the online catalogue know either specifically what they are looking for or have at least a vague idea in form of keywords, or an author.
About two thirds of users who access the online catalogue will not be able to find something and move on to the information desk.
The main reason is the complexity of the search mask, which causes users to submit erroneous search queries.
In some cases the wrong search field was used. In other instances, the wrong search field was used.
Users of the online catalogue (OPAC) are mostly not aware of advanced features such as truncating an entry to conduct a broader search.
In the event users found what they were looking for in the catalogue, they noted down the book’s library code and sought the desired medium in the inventory.
2. Information desks
Visitors who have a vague topic in mind go straight to the information desk, or ask a clerk about navigating the facility.
When not inquiring about a search, visitors resolve administrative matters such as address changes, paying outstanding- or late fees, extending a book loan, or reserving a type of medium.
General questions related to search are be e.g.:
- “What do you have on the topic XYZ?”
- “Do you have books by this author?”
- “Where can I find the biology section?”
Another portion of visitors conducted a failed search query on the online catalogue, and have questions around whether what they are looking for is available.
Visitors whose search through the online catalogue was unsuccessful would question if what they were looking for were available.
Librarians always accompany visitors to the sought-after items and assist in any way possible.
3. Navigating the space
When directly browsing the library inventory, users found their way around. This is mostly because those who directly browse are frequent users and know where to go. In rare cases, they will ask someone at the information desk.
After using the online catalogue, library visitors felt that finding the right floor, or the correct section- or shelf seemed rather confusing.
Once the correct floor and the section were located, narrowing down on the medium was perceived as very easy. All visitors reported that the library code assigned to the sub sections helped them navigate quickly.