Article: “Bringing in the Experts: Library Research Guide Usability Testing in a Computer Science Class”
The following article appears in the latest issue of Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (Vol 8, No 4).
Objective – We sought to develop best practices for creating online research guides in an academic library.
Methods – We performed usability tests of particular library research guides in order to determine how to improve them. Students in a Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) class (n=20) participated in the studies both as subjects of the tests and as evaluators of the results. The students were each interviewed and then asked to review the interviews recorded of four other classmates. Based on their own experience with the guides and their viewing of their classmates using the guides, the students worked with librarians to develop best practices.
Results – Students were generally unfamiliar with the library’s research guides prior to the study. They identified bibliographic databases as the most important links on the guides and felt that these should be prominently placed. Opinions about many specific features (e.g., images, length of guide, annotations) varied widely, but students felt strongly that there should be some organizational consistency among the guides.
Conclusions – The importance that students placed on consistency led the library to adopt guidelines dictating the inclusion of a table of contents and short list of major databases at the top of each guide, as well as uniform placement of certain other elements.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.