Thursday, November 05, 2009

No dominant type for search dominant academic library websites

I'm the chair of my library's Web Team and we are currently in the planning stages of migrating our website off of Lotus Notes and into Drupal. We may change our website significantly when we move over or we may not . It hasn't been decided yet.

There is no search box on the current version of MPOW's website. After failing at finding an updated breakdown of "search-dominant" users v.s. "link dominant users", I distracted myself by looking at other academic library websites to how many have one or more search boxes on their home page.

And what struck me was that I there is no consistency out there on the matter.

Out of the 20 libraries I looked at,
  • 7 had no search box at all
  • 6 had multiple search boxes available through tab browsing
  • 3 had multiple search boxes on the same page
  • 2 had a search box for the catalogue and links to other search options
  • 1 had a multiple search boxes available through a drop down menu
  • 1 had one search box for everything
And then, when I looked at those that offered multiple search options, there was no consistency there, either.

The search options were offered for:
  • journal articles, books, subjects
  • library catalogue, journal articles, course reserves, google scholar, library website
  • library catalogue, this site, e-journals, reserves
  • catalogue, article/databases, e-journals, subject guides
  • catalogue, articles, e-jorunals, e-resources
  • catalogue, articles, eresources, reserves
  • catalogue, journal titles, articles, library website

I am now looking for statistics to back up my pre-conception that most of our users come to the library website to find articles and not books.

This research process is generating more questions than answers.


Dan Scott said...

If we had the ability to add forms to our library web site, we would add a form with common search options (article (by keyword, probably pointing to academic searh complete for lack of any federated search) / book (by keyword) / journal (by title) / music recording (by keyword) / repository (for nobody) / score (by keyword) ).

But our university CMS is TERRIBLE and doesn't even give us the ability to fail that way.

Dan Scott said...

Don't even get me started about the insane search box that IS on our library web site (and every other page in the university web site). Just don't.

Geoff Sinclair said...

I made a custom script for our searchbox a few years ago which offers the choice of 1) catalogue 2) journal list 3) a popular full-text database and 4) our site (in that order, but not that wording).

It's been expanded over the years to include more functionality:
-- Keeps stats
-- Offers "did you mean" corrections (absolutely necessary)
-- Direct patrons to appropriate resources based on their IP address

People still confuse the journal and article options. If there's an ideal wording, we haven't found it.

We know it's used quite a bit, but I'm not convinced it's as successful as it could be. Ultimately, I'd like to see a sort of Wolfram Alpha searchbox for all things subscribed by, and related to, our Library.

Mita said...

Thanks Dan and Geoff for the insights!

Saint Jacob Neilsen has the data to back up that user love search boxes but they are largely unaware that they may be limited by scope.

As you know, if you put a search box on a screen, then users will use it thinking it works for everything. (We ran a survey on subject guides once and the comment results were almost all misguided search terms). Anyway, that's why we've resisted a search box in previous versions.

We have been able to resist a campus search bar on the library page (don't get me started either...) for the time being but we now have to fight that battle again. Wish us luck!